Disclaimer concerning my posts related to philosophy and religion

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I have noticed that misunderstandings are much easier on an international forum than in real life or even on a single-culture forum (where all members are from the same country). One of the reasons is that the usage and connotations of some words can cary greatly between individuals, but especially across socio-cultural and linguistic groups.

It is in matters of philosophy and religion that usages and connotations vary the most, and can even be opposite in the case of individuals coming from very different cultures. For instance, for some people the term "religious" means "adherent (even just in name) to an organised religion". For others it means "believing and practising an organised religion". For others still, it does not matter whether we are talking about organised religions or just personal faith. There are dozens of variants on the understanding of the word "religious". Personally I use it with this meaning in mind : "holding deep and unconditional faith and practising an organised religion as its rules require it". So for example a Christian that does not attend church regularily or has doubts about even one of the dogmas of the Bible is not "religious" to my eyes. It may not be the most common definition, but it is mine, and I wish to have my comments understood according to the way I mean it.

I have often been criticised on this forum by people who completely misunderstood the meaning of what I said because they judged it according to their own definition of the words used. It may seem unevitable because language is so ambiguous and nobody is supposed to know what definition someone uses, unless they specify it. This is the purpose of this thread. I want to avoid all future misunderstandings, and I ask people who have (mis)judged me before to reconsider what they think is my opinion according to the definitions provided below.

- Religion : I always use this word in the sense of organised religion with a dogma and rules imposed on the believers, not personal faith. Lacking the dogma, Shintoism and many branches of Buddhism are not properly "religions" to me, but "spiritual beliefs systems", or "spiritual organisations" is they are organised in temples, monastries and/or shrines with priests/monks.

- Religious : somebody who believes unconditionally the dogma of a particular religion and practises its rituals.

- Religious Extremist : someone who believes that their religion is the only one valid and who tries to convert other people to it.

- Christian : someone who believes unconditionally everything that is in the Bible. I do not call "Christian" someone who doesn't believe or has doubts about miracles, or that Adam and Eve were the first two humans on Earth created by God, for example. So I personally do not use the term "Christian" for somebody who believes in 90% of what is in the Bible, but rejects a few things, even if they attend church frequently. I only care about the belief in the 'dogma', not the practise when I say "Christian". Someone who regularily attends church and believes most of what is in the Bible is a "Christian-in-name religious person".

- Christian in name only (or by tradition) : person who does not really believe (or at all) in the Bible, but identify him/herself as a Christian, or or Christian heritage, because their family or ascendants are/were Christian. It is most common for 'Christians in name only' to be Deists or Agnosticists. They are non-religious but may occasionally attend church or some sacrements (e.g. church wedding with a priest) for the sake of tradition. I sometimes refer to 'Christians in name only' as 'non-religious Christians'.

- Bible God (or Judeo-Christian God) : almighty and omniscient god that judges humans in their daily life. This is by opposition to the passive Deist God, or gods from other religions (esp. polytheist).

- Deist : someone who believes in God (a god that usually does not intervene in human affairs or judge them in their daily lives), but not in an organised religion.

- Agnosticist : someone who has doubts about the existence of god (and naturally about organised religions as well).

- Pantheist : someone who believes that the Universe is God and we are part of it (including many denominations of Buddhists and some Hindus). Hardly more than a more spiritual variation of Atheism (Universe=God vs Universe=Nature => just semantics and personal feelings differ).

- Universalist : someone who "picks and chooses" what they like in the morals or world view of various religions or philosophies to make their own beliefs system. Universalists are often also Deists, Pantheists, Agnosticists or Atheists.

- Atheist (or Strong Atheist): person who rejects the concept of god based on philosophical reasoning. Contrarily to popular beliefs, Atheists often have their self-defined moral code and always have a clearly defined view of the Universe. This is not always the case of 'people with no religion' (see below). Atheists can be Universalists as well.

- Person with no religion (or "Weak Atheist") : someone who generally doesn't care about religion or rejects it, but has no particular opinion about god (uncommittal). Some Animists could be considered as "superstitious people wthout religion".

- Non-religious person : includes all those who do not strictly adhere to the dogma and rituals imposed by an organised religion, such as "Christians in name only", Universalists, Deists, Pantheists, Agnosticists, Atheists, people without religion, and any non-practising people who identify themselves with a particular religion. Personally, most of the people I know in Europe and Japan are, according to my definition, "non-religious", apart from priests, nuns and a few elderly.

- Anti-religious person : someone who believes that organised religions are detrimental to society because of their association with political power, because of too rigid morals, because they contradict sciences or logics, or because of any other reason (usually more than one). Anti-religious people may very well believe in god (as Deists or Pantheists) and so are not to be confused with Atheists (although the two are not exclusive of each others).

IMPORTANT NOTICE : the Forum Rules regarding religion were written according to the above defintions.
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I would like to add that I am not a person that sees thinks in 'black and white'. Everybody makes judgement on other people based on their own values. I personally do not judge people based on one factor and dismiss them as 'failure' if they do not match my ideas on one particular topic. For example, I do not categorise them as "all bad" if their opinion about religion differ from mine.

Like many other people, I take thousands of factors in consideration : personality (e.g. curiosity, humour, strength of character, formality, compatibility of character...), open-mindedness (e.g. liberalism), moral views, political ideals, tastes in arts (music, films, books, interior decoration...), education, intelligence, hobbies, friendliness, trust, emotional connection, style, socio-economic background, length and depth of acquaintance, shared experiences, physical and psychological attraction, and opinions about thousands of subjects of which philosophy and religion are just a small part. Each have different weight in making my "total" in judging a person.

It is in my character to attach a lot of value to reason, logic, knowledge, independence of mind, curiosity, outspokenness and wit (e.g. sarcastic jokes, puns...). I also tend to attach less importance to the "form" (the way something is said) rather than the "content" (actual meaning), which also means that I prioritise "truth" or 'facts" over people's feelings (even my own). That is why I often sound harsher than I intended to (even my wife has wondered why I could be so harsh at times). It is not intentional - it is part of my way of thinking.

I was born like this. It isn't something I was educated to be or can change (I have tried and failed). It is just me. I suspect that there is a connection with my being exceptionally gifted, which I consider like an abnormality causing more harm than good (to others, but even more to myself). Excess of one specific ability at the detriment of others can be seen as a kind of disability.

So yes, I am an Atheist and I am anti-religious. But I do not have anything against most people I have met, who I do not consider religious. I also don't mind people believing in god or a supreme being, like Deists or Pantheists do. I just cannot understand how someone who really cares about metaphysical issues can believe in the Bible God. I admit having a limited tolerance towar people who preach me about this Bible God or dogmatic organised religions.

But that is not because of that that I judge them as "all bad". As I said above, this is only one of thousands of factors I take into account to give my "global appreciation" of the person. I in fact had a very good friend in highschool who was a true Catholic Christian (as explained above), but for whom I has a lot of respect because his other qualities (personality, compatibility of character, education, friendliness, etc.). Some close relatives of mine seriously lack the knowledge, curiosity, reason and logical abilities that I value, but it does not prevent me from loving/liking them for other reasons. I have relatives which I have harshly criticised for their religious beliefs, but they know that once we do not talk about it, I have no problem liking them.

This is to say that as harsh and sometimes offensive as I may sound while discussing some philosophical or religious topics, you should only be offended enough as to try to understand my point of view. I usually get harsh with people that I feel never manage to understand me, out of frustration. But once the argument is over, I usually forget about my negative feelings toward that person (unlike a lot of people I have met on Internet forums). I only hold grudges when people constantly attack me for apparently no reason - especially when they attack me behind my back in PM's or threads in which I have not participated. I can't understand such behaviour.
I moved the offtopic discussions about the definition of 'extremism', 'religion', etc. here.
I also want to add for religious people, and especially puritanical Christians and Muslims, that as an non religious person and an Atheist, my lifestyle is maybe guided by stricter moral rules and values than many religious people.

I am proud to say that my morality is based a deep sense of humanism, and I can follow my moral rules justly because they are mine and they were not imposed on me or taught to me. My personality is such that I have to understand things and agree with them to put them into practice.

I drink little alcohol - just a glass of red wine occasionally, because it is supposedly good for health. I have never smoked and never used drugs.
I have grown to dislike big parties and nightclubs, mostly because I cannot bear noise and I am not comfortable around lots of strangers.

I am married and do not look at/for other women/girls (I do not even think about cheating). Before getting married, I didn't use to date a lot, although I could have. I have good reasons for that : 1) I associated promiscuity with STD's, which I am very afraid of; 2) I have very high standards when it comes to women, and I have met very few that I would even consider dating; 3) I hate cheating, lying or deceiving, and so could not have multiple partners (my personality is too much about honesty, directness and frankness for me to bear even the thought of it).

I do not make or like sexist jokes (e.g. blond jokes) - although I like "politically incorrect" or cynical jokes. ;)

I have never stolen anything in my life (not even a pen from classmate as a child), because I have always felt that theft was not just a legal but also a moral crime.

I know many so-called true Christians that lead a much less puritanical or "moral" life than mine... Yet I lead my life according to genuine feelings, not because I was told it was bad. My personality is intrinsically moral in this regard.

What differentiates me from puritans is that I can talk freely about sex or anything else. What distinguishes me from many religious devouts is that, despite personally finding male homosexuality repulsive, I have nothing against gay marriage or gay rights in general. I also do not think that a woman's place is at home, because that's discrimination. In short, I manage to lead a life as moral and disciplined as a conservative Christian or Muslim, while being a liberal and atheist. I see that as a win-win situation.
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