Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Ambiguism, the Religion of Kind Fools

What is Ambiguism, you might ask?

Well, start with any religion you want, then ignore the parts you don’t like and add what you feel it’s missing. You have just created a new sect of Ambiguism, though we all know it will be called by its parent religion (though it will bear only a superficial similarity).

This trend is nothing new. It’s really how all followers handle religion to some degree, as none have the will or perhaps even the capability to live by such an arbitrarily contradictory ethos as presented by any of the major religions. The perfect follower simply doesn’t exist, perhaps because the perfect religion doesn’t exist.

However, Ambiguists take it a step further. Perhaps those who first did this consciously in modern times were the Deists. Scientific understanding had largely explained simple aspects of nature and disproven many of the traditional foundations of religious cosmology (e.g. the Earth is not flat, nor is it the center of the universe). To the Deist, the old religions seemed an inadequate set of beliefs that were slowly dying at the feet of scientific inquiry.

No one self-identifies as a Deist anymore. Okay, maybe a few pretentious, over-read pricks do… but nobody respectable identifies as a Deist. And why would they? Deism as a movement died out around the time atheism appeared, because atheism is what Deists had been waiting for. The only real differences I see in Deist and atheist thought is that Deists are not opposed to using divine nomenclature, and atheists don’t capitalize “Nature.”

But here’s the rub… when a transitional group disappears, that doesn’t mean the transition disappears as well.

Without “Deism,” religious people lack that safe, semi-familiar stepping stone to atheism. Instead, formerly-religious people are compelled to outwardly proclaim themselves as “Christian” or “Jewish” simply because “atheist” is such a frightening term to all but the most openly rebellious. “Deism” was the philosophical stepping stone to atheism, and without it, a new exodus from faith is all the more difficult.

Which leads me to Ambiguism, a strange set of faiths that I have noticed emerging among the semi-religious. You can identify an Ambiguist by their buzz words. They like to mention how the Bible is “poetic/poetry,” which implies that they see metaphor where the fundamentalist sees a command to act with incivility.

The Ambiguist knows the Big Bang occurred, but they insist there had to be a vague “something” before, a something which they capriciously term “God.” They see evolution as a real phenomenon, but insert the unnecessary idea that “God” is somehow steering it. They see “God” as the author of the laws of physics, and I imagine many of them are really hoping this “God” will be judging them favorably and rewarding them forever in the afterlife.

If that isn’t a Deist, I don’t know what is… but good luck trying to get anyone to self-identify that way. I don’t think anyone would want to be called an “ambiguist” either, but it’s more of a term of endearment on my part than a terminology that I believe will ever catch on among those who waffle about on matters of faith.

Philosophically, I have no respect for ambiguists. I see them as intellectually lazy cowards, as spineless halfwits who lack basic critical thinking skills. But I like them. It’s important not to scare them off, I think. I’d like to imagine them as on the road to atheism, but they’re equidistant between the faithless and the faithful. They are by no means beyond the point of no return, so why bug them?

Well, these semi-nonbelieving religious people are largely still affiliated with the traditional institutions. Just as one example of one such community, the gap between what the Catholic Church says and what nearly all Catholics actually believe and do is about as wide as that which is between me and the Catholic Church. Most Catholics are one opinion away from religious at all.

While growing up Catholic, I knew plenty of adults who were essentially Deists/Amgibuists. Even now, they support gay marriage, they believe abortion should be legal, they believe in the value of contraception, they think good people who aren’t Catholic will still go to heaven… that sort of thing. And yet, all of these people go to Church and put money in the collection plate, which goes to help fight against the rights of gays and women, with a significant portion going towards mission work with poor and desperate people where they advise AIDS ridden villages not to use condoms.

And yet, these “Catholics” – who aren’t really – allow their affiliation to religious scoundrels to taint their own actions. It’s unfortunate, because I know that in a world where people give money to religious organizations hoping it will go to help people, very few people will get helped… while many grand and lavish houses of worship will be newly erected.

Here’s the secret about religion: they thrive on suffering. Religion has no vested interest in ridding the world of pain and anguish. If anything, religion must foster that which causes difficulty in order to maintain dependence upon the institution of religion. Those who have plenty, those who never had to go to a church for a hand out, those who never relied on religion… these are the people who feel no compulsion to remain religious. Religion holds people down so that they can look like the hero when they lift you back up.

When you give to a religion or religious group, you are not making a charitable donation. There are corporations that do more charity work than major churches, and that’s a fact. I don’t particularly like corporations, but at least corporations (in theory) pay their fair share to the public good. Religion sells lies and hope tax-free, all while pushing a political agenda that assures their relevance through the proliferation of poverty and crime.

This is why it would be nice if there were more secular charities, because a person ought to be able to donate to or volunteer for an organization that only wants to help people, not sway public officials or feed people a bunch of nonsense. A robust secular charity system is a major part of making the non-religious environment appealing to those who still convince themselves that religion offers something that being non-religious cannot provide.

Charity is an important thing to atheists, I know that much, we just lack the actual organizations. With rare exceptions, most atheists are more or less socialists, who see the government as needing to play a significant role in providing for those in need, but that will never be enough. Atheists need something they can actually point to and say, “We did that,” because the government belongs to everybody and atheists can’t really take any credit for it.

And yet, “atheist” might not be the best banner to run under. Terms like “secular” have even been somehow demonized by the new conservative media. Really, I am not sure there needs to even be an ideological brand on a charity, and it will be, by definition, unaffiliated.

These are the kind of neutral organizations that fulfill both needs for atheists: they are an outlet for atheist charity that avoids marginalizing itself by remaining open to the wider public, and this in turn can put those who are on the cusp of overcoming their religion in contact with a community that isn’t centered on religion or on bashing religion.

These kinds of charities can be safe zones for those coming from any direction, and would fill a gap sorely lacking in modern American society. Maybe I’ll start one…


  1. Is there any data on how many atheists are also socialists (outside of former Communist countries)?

    I grew up around socialist atheists (UJPO), but later encountered the Ayn Rand groupies. More recently, someone told me about her connection to Satanism, which seems to be Ayn Rand with black candles. This person believes that civil society needs some basic rules against violence, but otherwise feels no sense of obligation to others and sees such feelings of obligation as religious holdovers.

    1. This is mostly an observation from having dealt with various groups of atheists. There are certainly those who are right-leaning, but they are far outnumbered by those who consider themselves "moderates" and "liberals."

      But again, we have a problem with self-identification, because most of these "atheist moderates" are very socially liberal and also support economic policies that are by their very definition "socialist," even though such a term would be avoided by anyone who wants to be perceived as a "moderate."

      Here's what I see out of the atheist community at large: a huge number of very left-leaning individuals who call themselves anything from moderates to anarchists, and a small contingent of atheist Republicans. I have to actively seek out these right-leaning atheists, and those I find often feel put-out by the atheist community because most atheists are appalled that someone could have rejected religion and yet still somehow accepts conservative ignorance as fact. Hell... not even I can mask my contempt for them.

      But yes, you'll find douchebag atheists who don't care about anyone else. They have their own little Libertarian circles, and they're definitely part of the problem.

    2. But yes, you'll find douchebag atheists who don't care about anyone else. They have their own little Libertarian circles, and they're definitely part of the problem.


    3. When did you last meet a Darwinist?

    4. Isn't every Republican a social darwinist?

    5. Maybe they're economic Darwinists. If they were genetic Darwinists, they wouldn't be so opposed to abortion and contraception, especially for the poor. They want inferior people to reproduce... that's how they get more Republicans.

    6. This seems to be an admission that you think people who get abortions are inferior people, and that abortions are the mechanism to prevent more of them. It seems odd that the Left is proud of their abortion record, especially the success with blacks, yet they have lost all those potential black and poor votes. If it weren't for abortion, the Left wouldn't need to let in all those poor illegals and fight voter i.d. and purging the voter rolls. Seems like it would have been simpler to breed poor voters rather than to abort them and import others.

    7. Oh Stan... it's been a long time, though not long enough...

      I might point out that conservatives are nuts for their xenophobia, because you might say they're "alienating" a bunch of very religious, anti-abortion, anti-homosexual immigrants with their baseless hate.

      But Republicans don't have to worry about that because they are doing a good enough job of increasing their numbers for future generations by cutting education spending.

  2. Even right-leaning atheists, in my experience, aren't social conservatives and aren't opposed to abortion and birth control. They just don't want to pay for it.

    I wonder how many atheists supported Ron Paul?

    How do left-leaning atheists refute Ayn Rand's negative view of altruism and the idea that charity is not a moral value?

    Does secular humanism borrow from religion - taking some of the moral ideas while rejecting the idea of a deity?

    1. I refute Ayn Rand through empirical observation. In societies where everyone cares only for themselves, there are more problems than in societies where people look out for each others. It's also a matter of sheer logic: if I look out only for myself, I have one person working for me. If I am part of a system where I work for all and I spend less time worried about myself, there are millions looking out for me, even if I am not.

      I certainly doubt most atheists' morality is borrowed from religion, otherwise there wouldn't be such a divergence in atheist and religious morals. For example, I don't see sexuality as having much, if anything, to do with morality, except as it pertains to others (sleeping with many partners is not immoral, but impregnating people and not taking responsibility for it, or transmitting diseases to others, would be immoral, as would breaking any promises of monogamy that I decide to make, though I don't see monogamy as a virtue so much as a choice most people come to on their own).

      I could do a post on how I think morality is derived independent of religion, I just think the topic is rather over-done among atheists. I also don't think anyone would look to me for moral guidance, so I don't tend to give it.

  3. If you write a post on deriving morality, I'll post it in its entirety on my blog. Then we could discuss it. Let me know it you ever do it.


    1. You're free to use/post whatever I write, but I don't think you'll like it. Unless I start at "God said..." I am pretty sure you'll call my opinion illogical. But like I said, when I write it, feel free to gnaw on it for a while at your site.

  4. It's not so much that we are too lame to be one or the other... It's that we still believe in God. Just because we have lost faith in the church or the "precepts" doesn't mean we must also lose faith in God. And the ambiguist or whatever is born...

    ... Some of us go even further and still believe in Jesus.
    And that's why I still call myself a Christian. Believe me, if I didn't still believe I would claim atheism or whatever in a heartbeat, as I'm plenty rebellious.
    Once again, liberal Christian here. :)

    1. Of course. You want the eternal reward, but none of the bigotry. Who wouldn't want the best of both worlds of religion?

      I just don't see that as being very philosophically honest. Thanks for choosing not to be a douchebag, though. That is a perk.

  5. Very intriguing article... I can see you put a lot of thought into it, and it was fascinating to read.

    This is one of those awkward moments however, where I've just learnt that my "religion" (or lack thereof, depending on how you look at it) has a name!

    When I was growing up, my family, my friends, my community and my schools bought me up to be a good Christian. One day I realized though, that I didn't buy it. Yes, there are many aspects that I can appreciate and agree with, but there are also many that I strongly disagree with. On that note, this is the case with a lot of the other religions out there too. I won't get into specifics, but I am extremely fed up with the manipulation, judgement and hypocrisy of many of the conventional religions and their followers alike, who seem convinced that their religion is the only right choice, and damn anyone who disagrees.

    Personally I feel that if I live my life as what I consider a decent person, taking the positive aspects of the different religions out there and I try act how I believe I should be acting, when it comes to it, I would hope that I would be rewarded/damned based on my actions rather than what religion I claim to believe. There are plenty of religious nuts who kill/rape/abuse in the name of religion and then go to Church on Sunday and repent - just saying.

    I will never know where I came from or all the secrets of the universe and the afterlife, but I'm fine with that. I believe in evolution, but I also acknowledge the fact that according to science, matter can not just form from nothing.


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