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Veg*n Atheist/Agnostic/Freethinkers Chat

Starting this since it came up in another thread that we'd like to chat. (Even if it's just me and JessaCita professing our love for Julia Sweeny!;))

I probably don't have to say this because of how cool everyone on VegWeb is but...
Let's please not get into heavy debate in this thread.

Let's just chat about veg*n Atheist/Agnostic/Freethinkers issues...
For example, books that we're reading or would like to recommend, how we/if we celebrate holidays etc. that kind of thing. Or whatever else takes your fancy.  :D

Here's a somewhat related question..

I don't know what to tell my boys about death, without scaring them.  I tell myself that your spirit lives on in the memories of others and your body returns to the earth where it came from.  But I don't think that telling a three year old "you become compost when you die" is particularly reassuring?!?

I think reincarnation is a beautiful idea.  I love the thought that when someone dies there soul is continues in the universe as another person.  I think it makes me more easily accept the deaths of those close to me. 

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I know people really look up to Gandhi as a religious leader. I did some reading on him and in my humble opinion can't understand his appeal.

I kept reading comments by people the praise Gandhi as a great peace activist, religious/civil rights leader. I didn't really know anything about him, so I researched him. I just can't understand the point-of-view that Gandhi was the great man people were making him out to be. He was just a man. In fact, he fought for blacks and Indians to be segregated. He has some out right racist quotes about blacks in India that are pretty hard to ignore.  He did fight for some civil rights for some groups but how is better than countless other civil rights activist? I don't understand the mass appeal of Gandhi at all. Maybe some else can fill me in? Anyone deeply studied him?

His racist statements were form his younger years. This was a time before he really became "aware" of the plights of oppressed peoples everywhere. Most disregard them.

From Wikipedia:

Quote:
"Former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela is a follower of Gandhi, despite efforts in 2003 on the part of Gandhi's critics to prevent the unveiling of a statue of Gandhi in Johannesburg. Bhana and Vahed commented on the events surrounding the unveiling in the conclusion to The Making of a Political Reformer: Gandhi in South Africa, 1893–1914. In the section "Gandhi's Legacy to South Africa," they note that "Gandhi inspired succeeding generations of South African activists seeking to end White rule. This legacy connects him to Nelson Mandela in a sense Mandela completed what Gandhi started." They continue by referring to the controversies which arose during the unveiling of the statue of Gandhi. In response to these two perspectives of Gandhi, Bhana and Vahed argue: "Those who seek to appropriate Gandhi for political ends in post- apartheid South Africa do not help their cause much by ignoring certain facts about him; and those who simply call him a racist are equally guilty of distortion."

And as for his support of segregation, he was philosophically against it, but agreed and indeed did propose it in the spirit of political compromise.

Why people praise Gandhi is for his complete devotion to the idea of non-violence, and tireless work for the oppressed. Just because people make ill-informed statements in their youth or do occasionally contratrian things is no reason to write off great deeds and globally inspiring thoughts.

Was Gandhi perfect? No. But to write him off completely for some odd statements here and there is truly missing the mark.

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I have to say that, as a kid, I was more freaked out by the whole "afterlife" idea. I use to hope that I wouldn't see any angels coming down to take me. That's a freaky idea for a kid, IMO. I'd have rather had an adult tell me that there is nothing, and that I simply cease to be. I actually find that comforting. Once I die, I think there is nothing. If there is nothing and I cease to be, then there is absolutely nothing to worry about.

I plan to tell my kids the truth - that everyone has their own beliefs, no one really knows, but I believe that there is nothing based on lack of evidence for anything else. I'll phrase it more eloquently than that, lol. But, I want to make sure my kids make the best of their lives now - living them with the most happinness and the most fulfillment, and not hoping that there is "something better" out there. I want them to know that this is probably it, and they better live it to the fullest, going after their passion, and making their own lives meaningful.

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I think reincarnation is a beautiful idea.  I love the thought that when someone dies there soul is continues in the universe as another person.  I think it makes me more easily accept the deaths of those close to me. 

i totally second this! i honestly can see myself as a reincarnated person. i think that i'm either a reincarnated egyptian, roman, "brit-punk", or "hippie". odd as hell, but possible :)

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I think reincarnation is a beautiful idea.  I love the thought that when someone dies there soul is continues in the universe as another person.  I think it makes me more easily accept the deaths of those close to me. 

i totally second this! i honestly can see myself as a reincarnated person. i think that i'm either a reincarnated egyptian, roman, "brit-punk", or "hippie". odd as hell, but possible :)

We're pretty certain that my daughter was Indian in a former life. Before my wife got pregnant with our Wee, she could do no spicy food. I would have to tobasco my portions, or cook spicy things just for my self. However, once knocked up, nothing was spicy enough. That's how we got on out Indian food kick.

She couldn't get enough Indian. Now Nona still likes spicy food and even now, my little Ella's tastes run towards spicy and Indian food. Really, how many 21 month olds do you know who eat jalepeno rings, or spoonfuls of mint chutney?

Proof of reincarnation? who knows. But it made me consider the concept a bit. :)

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I think reincarnation is a beautiful idea.  I love the thought that when someone dies there soul is continues in the universe as another person.  I think it makes me more easily accept the deaths of those close to me. 

i totally second this! i honestly can see myself as a reincarnated person. i think that i'm either a reincarnated egyptian, roman, "brit-punk", or "hippie". odd as hell, but possible :)

We're pretty certain that my daughter was Indian in a former life. Before my wife got pregnant with our Wee, she could do no spicy food. I would have to tobasco my portions, or cook spicy things just for my self. However, once knocked up, nothing was spicy enough. That's how we got on out Indian food kick.

She couldn't get enough Indian. Now Nona still likes spicy food and even now, my little Ella's tastes run towards spicy and Indian food. Really, how many 21 month olds do you know who eat jalepeno rings, or spoonfuls of mint chutney?

Proof of reincarnation? who knows. But it made me consider the concept a bit. :)

i didn't like spicy food until this year! that's really impressive!

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Quote:
Just because people make ill-informed statements in their youth or do occasionally contratrian things is no reason to write off great deeds and globally inspiring thoughts.

Was Gandhi perfect? No. But to write him off completely for some odd statements here and there is truly missing the mark.

I think it is a little more than statements that he made. In 1906 he was demonstrating against blacks. I mean when you are a Sgt. Major in the Brisih army (in a war against the blacks) you can't exactly say your young either. He even published propaganda about the war.

I wouldn't say people should write him historically, but I also don't believe that he should be held up with other religious leaders.

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I plan to tell my kids the truth - that everyone has their own beliefs, no one really knows, but I believe that there is nothing based on lack of evidence for anything else. I'll phrase it more eloquently than that, lol. But, I want to make sure my kids make the best of their lives now - living them with the most happinness and the most fulfillment, and not hoping that there is "something better" out there. I want them to know that this is probably it, and they better live it to the fullest, going after their passion, and making their own lives meaningful.

How very well stated! This is exactly how I feel, too! If it turns out that there is something after death, then that will be a pleasant surprise--and no, I don't think I'll go to "hell" because I lived my adult life as an atheist... First, because I don't believe in hell. And second, even if there is a hell, I don't think a loving, caring person who lived a great life & made a positive impact on Earth deserves to be punished for all eternity because s/he was not religious. I don't claim to be right, necessarily, but I consider myself in atheist because I have made up my mind that I believe there is no god. This doesn't necessarily mean that I think those who do are wrong (though I can say that I dislike most organized religion), but in my own opinion, I have decided that there probably isn't a god, based on the evidence. (Which is why I say "atheist" & not "agnostic." I have made a decision regarding what I believe to be true... I'm not still debating the issue in my own mind. I consider agnosticism as "maybe I believe there is a god... But then again, maybe I don't." And after much reading, thinking, discussing, etc., I have concluded the issue for myself.) :)

And I completely agree with you, Ecstatic! If I have children, I definitely plan on taking this same course regarding what I will tell him/her/them. :)

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I think it is a little more than statements that he made. In 1906 he was demonstrating against blacks. I mean when you are a Sgt. Major in the Brisih army (in a war against the blacks) you can't exactly say your young either. He even published propaganda about the war.

I wouldn't say people should write him historically, but I also don't believe that he should be held up with other religious leaders.

In 1906, he was still in his 30's, still learning the complex politcal and social systems at work, and working primarily for what he percieved as most important at the time: The needs of the Indian people. His philosophies and ideas were still evolving.

Look, I'm no Gandhi expert, bu this may help:

Quote:
"Two professors of history who specialize in South Africa, Surendra Bhana and Goolam Vahed, examined this controversy in their text, The Making of a Political Reformer: Gandhi in South Africa, 1893–1914. (New Delhi: Manohar, 2005). They focus in Chapter 1, "Gandhi, Africans and Indians in Colonial Natal" on the relationship between the African and Indian communities under "White rule" and policies which enforced segregation (and, they argue, inevitable conflict between these communities). Of this relationship they state that, "the young Gandhi was influenced by segregationist notions prevalent in the 1890s."  At the same time, they state, "Gandhi's experiences in jail seemed to make him more sensitive to their plight the later Gandhi mellowed; he seemed much less categorical in his expression of prejudice against Africans, and much more open to seeing points of common cause. His negative views in the Johannesburg jail were reserved for hardened African prisoners rather than Africans generally."

So someone brought up in a racist, segregated society allowed those views to influence early thinking in writing? A shame, for certain, but not unexpected.

What was unexpected and what he is remembered for, is eventually leaving those views behind (bearing in mind politcal concessions made, of course), and embracing non-violence totally, a dedication to a serch for truth (which includes, according to him, learning from past mistakes) which has inspired thousands, sympathy for both human and non-human animals and a devout approach to Hindu.

These are the things he is remembered for. His spirituality led him to lead a non-violent revolution against the largest empire in the world. That worked to a degree. That's pretty phenominal and inspiring. Again, yes, he was a flawed man - all humans are flawed - but he attempted to learn from his errors and strove for the betterment of creatures against a lot of adversity.

Look, Jesus was in all reality probably a mentally ill failed carpenter, with some supremely lucid moments of introspection, and people seem to hold him in pretty high regard. Even though he encouraged vandalism (smash that temple, baby!) and randomly cursed out fig trees, they don't seem to invalidate his ideas of love for all beings.

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Do you know if he ever recanted and publicly apologized for his racist comments/actions?

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I have not a clue.

However, I think his actions spoke louder than a public apology.

To borrow a quote from the man, "Be the change you want to see in the world."

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I know that every single thing he ever said was not written down, but, if did not recant, then doesn't sit well with me. If he had recanted it would have done a world of good for blacks in India that he had once fought against.

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I know that every single thing he ever said was not written down, but, if did not recant, then doesn't sit well with me. If he had recanted it would have done a world of good for blacks in India that he had once fought against.

Back then, the public apology wasn't the institution it is now. The modern public apology is more of P.R. device than a statement of genuine intent. Mel Gibson, Michael Richards... these people publicly apologize for their racist statements because they have something to actively gain, their lives depend on public perception.

All of Gandhi's questionable comments - from what I've been able to discern - can be confined to a certain period of his life. A period before he launched into life and world changing endeavors. To me, his later philosophy and statements regarding truth, peace and equality are more than enough apology, and evidence of an enlightening mind.

If you feel happiest calling Gandhi racist, that is fine. I just think you're focussing too much on one specific period in the mans life, and not looking at the larger picture.

I've been serious for far too long now... I'm off to make a fart joke or something.  :)

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if this is not ironic, i don't know what is! like 2 days after i've been talking and really thinking about this my mum is talking about "going back to church again" and wants me to join the 'effing youth group! i have to "try" it....again...and again....
woot, i love wasting an hour at cult sessions :)

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Of everything that he wrote he never recanted on his actions on blacks though? Doesn't that strike you as odd? People do apologize for things they are genuinely sorry for, I'm sure that was true back then. If he didn't believe that way anymore, wouldn't you think he would at least acknowledge it?

I'm not happy or unhappy questioning whether he was racist. It just is what it is. Unless he recanted, I don't believe he belongs up there with other religious leaders that he is often grouped with.

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I really like this thread. I'm glad I waited to read it until a lot of people responded and I could get into the right mindframe put in my 2 cents. I'm going to have to check out "the God Delusion", its sounds very interesting. Who is Jessica Sweeny?

I was raised Catholic. I think some of the stories in the bible are cute (noah's arc & such) and in general the ten comandments are good rules to live by, but other than that its all just silly and hypocritical to me.  I don't really think that there is God for many of the same reasons that others have said the same thing, it just doesn't make sense to me that there is some all knowing creature watching over everyone and judging us.  Also: I thought if you confessed your sins they all went away, so what's with all the hating on the gay and divorced?  ::)

Recently I have been reading up on Buddhsim. No God to obey, you are responsible for yourself. It's teaching me to appreciate what I have and to live more "in the moment" It has brought me some peace and I think I am becoming a better person because of it. So far I like it but I do not feel knowledgable enough yet to call myself Buddhist. I also don't know if I really believe in riencarnation.

I do celebrate all of the "christian" holidays the american way though. We put up a Christmas tree, exchange gifts, and Make Easter Baskets. I decorate the house with Shamrocks for Saint Patricks Day, hearts for Valentines Day, and we go ALL OUT for Halloween.....How is following any of these traditions religous? I don't really see any connection between any of these activities and beliving in "God" or "Jesus". To me they are just fun traditions to follow. I also sometimes celebrate Chinese New Year when we realize that it is coming up by going into philly to watch the parade and dragon dances & eat yummy food. I have no idea of the significance of that holiday, I just think it is fun.

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Lauranc, I'm with you here.  I have no problem at all taking Gandhi as a great man and spiritual guide even if he was an idiot or an @$$hole at one point in his life.  Religion is full of idiots and @$$holes reaching an awakening that makes them stop being idiots and @$$holes and start being awesome.  But I can't respect someone unless she has actually stopped being an idiot and an @$$hole.  If Gandhi did reverse his racist views, there should be some evidence of this that we can find.  (After all, if he did reverse his views and never told anyone he was wrong, well that sucks in a different way.  It's still tacit support for racist views.  If you support segregation and then realize you were wrong, you have a duty to tell people you were wrong, especially if you're as politically important as Gandhi was.)  I don't easily ignore racism, so I can't just say to myself "well Gandhi was so awesome in other ways, I'll just respect him even if he was anti-black."  That, in my mind, disqualifies someone for being deserving of respect.  Again, if (as I still think is likely) he REALIZED he was being an @$$hole and an idiot, and STOPPED being an @$$hole and an idiot, then that's a great relief to me, and I would continue to consider Gandhi one of the greatest humans in history.  But if he did stop, there should be some evidence of it.  And if he didn't... well, I don't think that's a minor, nitpicky thing.  It's sort of important.

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Lauranc, I'm with you here.  I have no problem at all taking Gandhi as a great man and spiritual guide even if he was an idiot or an @$$hole at one point in his life.  Religion is full of idiots and @$$holes reaching an awakening that makes them stop being idiots and @$$holes and start being awesome.  But I can't respect someone unless she has actually stopped being an idiot and an @$$hole.  If Gandhi did reverse his racist views, there should be some evidence of this that we can find.  (After all, if he did reverse his views and never told anyone he was wrong, well that sucks in a different way.  It's still tacit support for racist views.  If you support segregation and then realize you were wrong, you have a duty to tell people you were wrong, especially if you're as politically important as Gandhi was.)  I don't easily ignore racism, so I can't just say to myself "well Gandhi was so awesome in other ways, I'll just respect him even if he was anti-black."  That, in my mind, disqualifies someone for being deserving of respect.  Again, if (as I still think is likely) he REALIZED he was being an @$$hole and an idiot, and STOPPED being an @$$hole and an idiot, then that's a great relief to me, and I would continue to consider Gandhi one of the greatest humans in history.  But if he did stop, there should be some evidence of it.  And if he didn't... well, I don't think that's a minor, nitpicky thing.  It's sort of important.

that was great and so true! if any of you remember friar Laurence's soliloquy from Romeo and Juliet about good and evil, it is so true! it talks about how evil is a cankering death that eats up a flower, or a good knight (good) and how good and evil resides in everyone. like Hitler, for instance. he had the potential to be good and probably was good in his life but he was overtaken by evil. people change. it's simple. it's pointless to hold a grudge from someone's past. nobody's perfect.

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Lauranc, I'm with you here.  I have no problem at all taking Gandhi as a great man and spiritual guide even if he was an idiot or an @$$hole at one point in his life.  Religion is full of idiots and @$$holes reaching an awakening that makes them stop being idiots and @$$holes and start being awesome.  But I can't respect someone unless she has actually stopped being an idiot and an @$$hole.  If Gandhi did reverse his racist views, there should be some evidence of this that we can find.  (After all, if he did reverse his views and never told anyone he was wrong, well that sucks in a different way.  It's still tacit support for racist views.  If you support segregation and then realize you were wrong, you have a duty to tell people you were wrong, especially if you're as politically important as Gandhi was.)  I don't easily ignore racism, so I can't just say to myself "well Gandhi was so awesome in other ways, I'll just respect him even if he was anti-black."  That, in my mind, disqualifies someone for being deserving of respect.  Again, if (as I still think is likely) he REALIZED he was being an @$$hole and an idiot, and STOPPED being an @$$hole and an idiot, then that's a great relief to me, and I would continue to consider Gandhi one of the greatest humans in history.  But if he did stop, there should be some evidence of it.  And if he didn't... well, I don't think that's a minor, nitpicky thing.  It's sort of important.

This concept of requiring specific apologies for comments - which some argue is more anger at the criminals he was housed with, and ignorant people in general... but that's another side of the debate - is a bit silly to me.

I ate meat for 27 years. I have yet to hold a press conference renouncing my meat eating or apologize face to face to a cow. How much of a statement do I need to make?

If the man moved on from that period in time, and just left it there, where is the harm? Does the term "all" or "everyone" appear with asterisks in his works to denote "except blacks"?

Again, I think his actions speak for themselves in the time since those writings. He wasn't striving for good P.R., or to appeal to the American sense of justice. He was striving for equality, non-violence and peace for all.

(No Asterisk)

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Additionally, there were no claims at the time that these statements were racist. These are recent assertions, from what I can tell. How can someone apologize for something they may not be aware of doing?

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