Non-believer curious about faith and belief

I've been - pretty much since forever - fascinated by the idea of a god, or gods, or no gods at all. If I try to trace it back, it probably goes back to reading a couple of the right (or wrong, your mileage may vary) books, and staying somewhere out in the country where there was nothing much to do but get introspective.

A large chunk of the current political debate in my country, which would be Norway, seems to be mostly about whether or not muslims will be the end of our Norwegian-ness, with their hijabs and believing in Allah and carrying on. I got nothing against this particular religion, mind you. I don't see myself getting into Islam anythime soon, I'm not a five prayers per day kind off person, and I can't say I trust some dude i can't see or hear or according to some, percieve or even comprehend on any sort of meaningful level farther than I could throw him. (For the record, I do not have the guns required to toss some omnipotent sonofabisch around.)

So what I'm hoping for some input on from you guys, is what all this believing in a higher power is like, and why it's something you keep doing and what it does for you. The closest thing I can get is taking how I felt about my dad when I was a little squirt and multiply it with the kind of number that makes your head hurt. Don't seem to get any wiser doing that.

Reason I'm wondering - except it's the time of night when it seems like an appropriate thing to do - is (as mentioned) part that I never did this kind of thing myself, and that some people i respect a lot, including a close friend, turned out to be slightly more religious than I realized. I'm curious and would like to know more about it, but unsure as I am about how to approach it without weirding someone out or offending someone, I turn to the vast hive-mind of the internet instead.

(This is where I realized I mentioned something about muslims and some debate kind of deal earlier. That trail of thought went nowehere, apologies.)

I urge anyone tempted to play the militant atheist to just drop it, or at least play it subtly enough to not resemble a qu'ran- (I realize I can't spell for shit) burning fucknut telling y'all to pack it in and head back to the desert.

If any of this doesn't make much sense to you, grammar-wise or otherwise, I blame the fact that I'm one sleep-deprived son of a bitch right now. It being the middle of the night here, I'm going to get my ass to bed and hopefully get back to the ones who choose to respond tomorrow, or less ideally get perma-banned and excommunicated for commiting some sort of thought-crime.

I honestly don't think believing in a higher power makes me "feel" that much different from any other person going about their day.

It's a great stress relief, I'll give you that much. Knowing that somewhere out there are beings that care about and love you (or in the case of some other faiths, want to help you grow into a better/stronger person)

The fact is, it's hard to actually describe faith; if you're interested in any specific faith, I recommend talking to a priest or Rabbi or a teacher of whatever faith your interested in (or if you're interested in maybe the old faiths of your people, look up a known Pagan community on the internet or something like that)

I'll try and describe it as best as I can. You don't "feel" faith all of the time, most of the time you go about your day perfectly fine, as normal as anyone else. However at mass or temple or wherever you go, that's when you begin to feel something. It feels like you have an extended family so to speak, like the person teaching the faith (depending on how they act of course) is a fatherly or older brother figure. You truly feel like you have a home, a family, and that someone out there loves you with all their heart. All they want is to try and help you become a kinder, better person. Hell just going to mass occasionally makes me regret all the bad things I've done before.

The shortest way to describe it is like this. Faith is like being loved. Not like you're in love or anything like that, but like the love a family has for one of it's children. Sure, some of them may act like Jackasses, a few may seem disrespectful, but they're your family, and when the chips are down they'll take care of you when you need their help most.

Mr. Morbid:
A large chunk of the current political debate in my country, which would be Norway, seems to be mostly about whether or not muslims will be the end of our Norwegian-ness, with their hijabs and believing in Allah and carrying on.

This seems to be a common sentiment in many European countries (even in the US, though I think we're still worried about Latinos more than Muslims). The thing that anti-Islam alarmists tend to forget is that not all Muslims are the same. I spoke with a Saudi woman once about Muslim dating customs- she found it almost laughable that I could imagine that Saudi Arab Muslims would throw acid on a young woman just for appearing to have a boyfriend. She insisted that mostly happens in other countries, like for example in Pakistan. I know a Muslim from north Africa who reports that his friends back home were very happy to break Muslim taboos against premarital sex and alcohol. A quick look at Malaysian or Indonesian Muslims compared to Saudi Muslims show a huge gap in culture, which is even larger when comparing Turkish Muslims with the Saudis.

And of course, within any of these countries Islam will take different forms as well. Elite, educated, world-travelling families from Saudi Arabia take a very different view of Muslim duties compared to the Wahhabi that so many westerners think represent the entirety of Muslim thought.

So the first thing you have to get to grips with is the fact that not all people even within the same religion approach their religion the same. Which leads neatly to your main question.

So what I'm hoping for some input on from you guys, is what all this believing in a higher power is like, and why it's something you keep doing and what it does for you.

It's different for everyone, and it's different at different points in their life's journey. There were times when I was much younger that I was convinced a God (not exactly as described by Christians) was literally watching over me. Now where I am now I see the me that I was as rather naive. I have family who love religion for the ritual, secret knowledge, opportunity for historical study, and determining political implications of scripture (the more he gets into religion, the more liberal he becomes). I have other family members who are purely into religion for the rules, social community, and the feeling that they are blessed for doing good.

Faith is pretty diverse, because ultimately it all comes from individual human thought.

But that's probably not a very satisfying answer. So let me put it like this: This is a gaming site, so presumably you have played video games. And presumably not just games like Microsoft Solitaire, but games with a character you control as the protagonist. Now in a really, really good game, you care about what happens to the character.

Why? Why do you care? You know it isn't a real character. You know it doesn't exist. You know nothing in the world will change based on how you play, but the very fact that you have fun is probably in no small part due to your emotional investment in the identity of the character. You are able to do this because you have a human theory of mind that is constantly seeking things to ascribe a personality, mind, motivations, and emotional state to.

Faith in a religion is like that. Some people don't really buy into the religion as truth and are more aware that the character is a bunch of mindless pixels. Others get sucked in and fervently believe the character is real. But in the end, all are on some level ascribing a personality, mind, motivations, and emotional state to something outside themselves that they cannot directly see. They might ascribe it to a kami, spirit, or god; or they might ascribe it to God, effectively ascribing an identity to all of the Universe.

And the strength of this feeling varies from believer to believer. For some it's a knowing self-deception, effectively a mode of thinking engaged in for symbolic purposes. It's like playing a video game but not suspending your disbelief. Some people get so caught up in it that they forget to suspend their disbelief. And some take it to the extreme demanded by many interpretations of Christianity and Islam and convince themselves that they fervently believe this identity they've imagined is real. But in the end, the root of the experience is the same. And if you can play a video game and care about the character, you know something of what it's like to believe.

I believe in some kind of 'higher power'. I believe we will create a higher power the next decades, in the form of advanced AI. Read all about it here: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/528.340737-Why-youll-be-immortal-if-youre-still-alive-in-2040

I was very scared about death before I knew about this, and I am way less bothered by it now. I'm also way less scared about long-term trends like 'aging' (what is 'vergrijzing' in English? You know, that a relatively large part of the population is going to be 'old'?), islamization and pollution.

And news that seems trivial to most people can excite me very much. Like...:
http://www.kurzweilai.net/switchable-nanomagnets-could-led-to-computer-memory-1000-times-smaller
http://www.kurzweilai.net/self-assembling-nanocubes-for-next-generation-antennas-and-lenses
http://www.kurzweilai.net/neuroscience-the-mind-reader
http://www.kurzweilai.net/new-energy-source-for-future-medical-implants-brain-glucose
http://www.kurzweilai.net/neuropolis-a-global-neuroscience-hub
http://www.kurzweilai.net/coaxial-nanocable-could-be-big-boon-for-energy-storage
http://www.kurzweilai.net/mit-researchers-create-self-assembling-3d-nanoscale-structures

When I believed in a God I was essentially the same as I was today, apart from I prayed to God quite regularly, which essentially felt like talking to myself in my head. Apart from the actual process of losing religion, which was quite an ugly one, nothing really changed.

Danyal:
I believe in some kind of 'higher power'. I believe we will create a higher power the next decades, in the form of advanced AI. Read all about it here: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/528.340737-Why-youll-be-immortal-if-youre-still-alive-in-2040

Mr. Morbid:
The closest thing I can get is taking how I felt about my dad when I was a little squirt and multiply it with the kind of number that makes your head hurt. Don't seem to get any wiser doing that.

If your head hurts, that's probably a good sign. :)

All I can say for "what does belief feel like" is "slightly less anomie". I don't know, feeling like you're being picked up and dribbled for a purpose vs. just life shitting on you. My husband's project just abruptly ended (he's an IT contractor), now we hang on the edge of the layoff abyss yet again while they search for another project and he starts working on his resume.

I've felt since last October that this is the year things change massively for me, I just have this unexplainable conviction that the Gods are saying "you're not growing, you're rotting; you've been in your crysalis healing long enough, change is coming and you have to reach deep within and find a way to weather it for the sake of your own growth". If I truly believed this was all random shit to no end, I think I'd be infinitely more anxious and feel that much more alone and disconnected than I do right now. I also feel what's happening to me is a microcosm of what's happening to my country-- that "stand up, take control of your life or someone else will" message seems to be pervading everything, it frustrates the fuck out of me that people can't hear/see it.

(And that, honestly, is infinitely more woo-woo than I usually get.)

Esotera:

Essentially like that, but more like Wolfram Alpha or Watson ;)

Danyal:

Essentially like that, but more like Wolfram Alpha or Watson ;)

I get the feeling that google is going to get there first, their search engine is getting incredibly clever, and they're moving to put in semantic search. I was reading this on the train last night and found it quite hopeful for the future. And hopefully google glasses are going to come out later this year and change everything.

Otherkin pagan here. Believing in a higher power isn't really anything special to me. It just feels normal.

Danyal:
I believe in some kind of 'higher power'. I believe we will create a higher power the next decades, in the form of advanced AI.

Don't call them a higher power. Their ego will go to their head and the next thing you know they'll be singing Daisy Girl and sending Austrian American politicians back in time.

Believing in anything just gives a person the sense of purpose to act beyond themselves. Th satisfaction of any selfish desire is always fleeting, but having an idea to follow is something you can always hold onto.

As children we are reliant on others to take care of us, but we grow and eventually find and crave freedom, but that freedom creates uncertainty and loneliness, so adults often seek ways to escape freedom. Having a sense a purpose is one way to keep the freedom but lose the fear. To have things in their life they rely on or relies on them, but to have those things being what they were free to choose.

The purpose of following a religion not much different than following a love one or trying to setup a family. We get a sense of belonging from our dedication.

Honestly, I can't bring myself to believe in non belief.
The fact that everything luckily fell into place over an infinite span of time doesn't sit too well with me.
I don't believe in an established religion, I believe that their is a higher power that set everything into motion, maybe it's sitting down with an endless bag of popcorn, watching and loling at the things inteligent life does.
Maybe it's kind, maybe their's an afterlife for good people.
Maybe it just doesn't care.
So many questions, no answers. It's just easy to think of something that will bring you peace.

 

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