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Faith

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eggshaped
309696.  Thu Apr 03, 2008 5:54 am Reply with quote

Sorry Suze, I suppose I meant Eastern Europe in the same way that I consider Birmingham to be in the South. Just a bit Bolton-centric. Will try to be more careful in future.

Incidentally, where would you consider Eastern Europe to begin? Lithuania? East of the Carpathians?

 
MatC
309728.  Thu Apr 03, 2008 6:15 am Reply with quote

No, no, egg - Birmingham is definitely in the north.

 
suze
309742.  Thu Apr 03, 2008 6:28 am Reply with quote

Yea, it's just a bit of Slavic sensitivity, so don't worry about it unduly. There's no general agreement on quite what Eastern Europe is, but Czechs, Hungarians, and Poles are pretty adamant that they aren't it. (Prague is west of Vienna, so Czechland can't be "Eastern". Some of Poland is west of some of Czechland, etc, etc.)

Most Poles would say that Eastern Europe essentially means Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine. The Baltic Republics are sometimes included as well, although culturally Lithuania is rather German so is sometimes allowed to count as Central. Others note that Estonia is extremely Finnish, and use that to consider all three as quasi-Nordic.

 
eggshaped
309775.  Thu Apr 03, 2008 7:00 am Reply with quote

The thing is that until recently Belarus, Ukraine etc were not countries in their own right. So in the 80s, was Eastern Europe just the European part of the USSR? I'm pretty sure that's not what the phrase generally meant when I was growing up, though I'm not sure exactly which countries it did include.

 
Flash
309815.  Thu Apr 03, 2008 7:47 am Reply with quote

The answer to the question as put must be "atheism", mustn't it?

 
suze
309823.  Thu Apr 03, 2008 8:06 am Reply with quote

egg, you're right of course - in your youth and mine, the term was generally used in Britain and North American to mean all those countries behind the so-called Iron Curtain.

But I'm a firm believer that one should usually avoid the use of terms if the people to whom they apply don't care for them. As came up (not for the first time) on the Outside a couple of days ago, we don't say "The Ukraine" because Ukrainians don't like it. Similarly as regards the notion that Czechs, Hungarians, and Poles (these three in particular) reside in Eastern Europe.


On Flash's question, I'm not actually sure. People whose "religion" is a mixture of [agnosticism / just don't give a toss about religion / have never really thought about it ] would undoubtedly be a larger group than any single group of adherents.

But how common in fact are people who have given the matter serious consideration and "actively" believe that God (or any allied concept) does not exist? I'll grant you Professor C Richard Dawkins.

 
Flash
310029.  Thu Apr 03, 2008 12:01 pm Reply with quote

Yes, agreed. I was using "atheism" to mean, loosely, "no God", ie an absence of a God rather than a positive affirmation that there is no God. Anyway, you see the point.

 
MatC
310096.  Thu Apr 03, 2008 2:51 pm Reply with quote

Opinion polls and censuses - neither of which I would consider hugely accurate, but - continue to show a large majority of UK people self-describing as "Christian". The fact that almost none of them attend services or in any other way publicly demonstrate their faith suggests to me that, sadly, the "I reckon there's something out there, I mean there's got to be more to it than this, I wouldn't say I'm religious but I am a very spiritual lady" gang are by far and away the largest group.

But I do think that a-theists, in Flash's rather than suze's sense, run them a decent second.

 
Flash
310137.  Thu Apr 03, 2008 4:52 pm Reply with quote

There's a third constituency in that Venn Diagram, though: people who are Christian by background, and identify with that culture as well as going along with a kind of Pascal's wager (there's no sense taking chances with eternity, and there are no atheists in a foxhole). I want to claim them for my atheist gang.

 
96aelw
310141.  Thu Apr 03, 2008 5:00 pm Reply with quote

'Atheist' is getting on for being too broad a term to be particularly useful by this stage, though, isn't it? I mean, that lot just described, the Dawkins crowd, and those who just don't give a toss about that sort of thing are three distinct groups lumped together under that one term, for a start. I would argue that, since the question as put is about the predominant faith, only the Dawkins crowd could be considered as an answer, as the other two aren't faiths (and arguably that isn't either, but one could make a case for its being so), but I'm aware this is just fiddling over semantics.

 
Flash
310148.  Thu Apr 03, 2008 5:13 pm Reply with quote

No, it's fair enough and in order to avoid getting entangled in semantics I need to withdraw the word "atheist" as too loaded and select some other term, which can be arbitrary but which means "everyone who either eschews religion or just doesn't care about it". I shall then claim that these people are the largest religious grouping in Britain. Thank you, I'm here all week.

 
suze
310168.  Thu Apr 03, 2008 5:54 pm Reply with quote

Flash wrote:
There's a third constituency in that Venn Diagram, though: people who are Christian by background, and identify with that culture as well as going along with a kind of Pascal's wager (there's no sense taking chances with eternity, and there are no atheists in a foxhole). I want to claim them for my atheist gang.


Well you can't have them!

I suppose I'm in that group - I was raised a Roman Catholic and say that I am one for form filling purposes, but rarely attend Mass and indeed wouldn't be allowed to take Communion at an RC Mass. (People who have been divorced and remarried aren't, unless they are Frank Sinatra and donate lots of money / make meaningful reference to horses' heads / or however he wangled it.)

Only thing is, I believe in God - so I'm clearly not an atheist. In fact, "theist" is about the one word I can uncontroversially use in describing my status.


More broadly, did I kill the question by establishing the correct answer? Is "well you might have thought the answer was the C of E, but what with all these Irish and Polish people around, there are actually more Catholics these days" as interesting as it would have been had the answer indeed been Muslims?

(Sorry Bunter, shall try not to do it again.)

 
Jenny
310187.  Thu Apr 03, 2008 6:38 pm Reply with quote

Secular humanist?

 
MatC
310306.  Fri Apr 04, 2008 4:41 am Reply with quote

No, I don't think you should withdraw atheist at all, Flash; look at the roots of the word. Clearly, anyway who does not have a god - for whatever reason - is an a-theist.

I still don’t think we’re the biggest group though: sadly, I think a larger group would continue to answer “more or less yes” rather than “no” to the question “Do you more or less believe that there is more or less something up there or out there which, in shorthand, we could call a ‘god’ or ‘gods’, sort of?” I’m not sure what category they belong in, but clearly it can’t be the a-theist category.

As for this nonsense - which is becoming dangerously widespread -
Quote:
only the Dawkins crowd could be considered as an answer, as the other two aren't faiths (and arguably that isn't either, but one could make a case for its being so),


No you bloody well could not! Not if you think words have meanings at all, you couldn’t. The scientific atheists might be right, wrong, or neither - but their arguments do not rely on faith in any way at all. Using the word “faith” to mean a supernatural-based ethical framework - they don’t fit that either. The pseudo-argument that atheism is “just another faith” is a very dangerous and devious one; it’s related to the Creationists saying that evolution is “just another belief,” meaning that it should have public parity with creationism.

 
dr.bob
310320.  Fri Apr 04, 2008 5:05 am Reply with quote

MatC wrote:
The scientific atheists might be right, wrong, or neither - but their arguments do not rely on faith in any way at all. Using the word “faith” to mean a supernatural-based ethical framework - they don’t fit that either. The pseudo-argument that atheism is “just another faith” is a very dangerous and devious one; it’s related to the Creationists saying that evolution is “just another belief,” meaning that it should have public parity with creationism.


I think that the "Dawkins crowd" (of which I would probably count myself as one) do rely on faith. Then again, I think that anyone who accepts that Australia exists without having actually visited it also relies on faith.

As for the idea that atheism, being a faith, has parity with other faiths, or your other point that people argue that evolution should have parity with creationism, all I can say is that not all faiths are equally ludicrous. Just because two statements require faith, doesn't automatically make them equally valid.

Flash's attempt to co-opt everyone who was raised in a certain faith but no longer practices it is a bit heavy handed. As suze and Mat have pointed out, whilst some of those people probably do qualify as atheists, others are most definitely theists.

 

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