Intermission: Losing my religion

Since I abandoned religion, I find it very interesting to see how people experience both faith and the rejection of it.

(It is funny that most religious people – including my previous self – don’t ever think about things like that; atheists “play” with the philosophy of religion much more; religious people just believe)

Inspired by this very nice article, I decided to write something about my path to atheism.

I have heard too many times people saying that we (atheists) took the “easy road” because without religions we live without morals, we can do whatever we want, we’re not afraid of some divine judgment etc. Weeeell… Nope.

What I lost when I lost my religion:

Eternal life
For me religion was never about fear for an eternal punishment. Quite the contrary, it was promise for an eternal blissful life. Yes, I was very confident about my virtuous behaviour in this world and my place in heaven was guaranteed, ok? I was convinced that there is something more after death, something nice and desirable. The idea of nothingness, now that I find much more scary and worrying.

Peace of mind
That finality of life made me much more aware of the waste of it. Not only waste in the sense of me not taking full advantage of it but also of other people going through “hell on earth” just because they were unlucky enough to be born at the wrong place at the wrong time. The weight of the world is much heavier if you know that this is all we have.

Safety
Apart from the safety against final death, religion also offered me the safety of having someone watching over me and humanity 24/7. Yes, there are so many bad things going on BUT goddy would solve everything at some point – now, in the afterlife, whatever. As a believer I didn’t put too much thought on it, I felt just relieved thinking that this is how it worked. Now I know it’s all on us, what we make of the world and how everyone lives depends pretty much on… everyone (except god).

Naivety
In case it is not clear already, I was pretty naive back then. Which made me be more careless and happy in a way. Ignorance IS bliss! I didn’t need to ask many difficult questions since god knew what he was doing and his ways were mysterious so I didn’t need to understand them!

Why did I stop believing then?
So, someone might ask, if religion gave only good things to me, why did I stopped believing?

It is true that I only got positive feelings from religion. I never felt pressure from it, never had issues with sex, never felt sinful, never felt bad for being a woman or anything else from all the negative things people mention when they talk about their religious experience. This is not so hard if you think about it, the way religions are constructed it’s very easy to cherry pick whatever you want from the dogma and ignore the rest. That’s what everybody is doing anyway.

But at some point I did ask difficult questions – and to be more precise precious friends started asking me difficult questions and I had to face the answers. I have always appreciated reason and logic (oh the irony) and I did get troubled by the answers I had in the arguments with my friends. I could see that they were based on sentiments and faith but not in rational reasoning. I started to slowly shredding the veils of faith one at at time – but that is a story for another time.

The bottom line is that when I started poking my religious beliefs I realized they didn’t make much sense and then everything else started making all the sense in the world. As years went by, things became very clear to me, things about life, death, our existence. I don’t find it easy, but I find it unavoidable. I’d rather know a harsh true than a beautiful lie and since I now see the logic in atheism it would be impossible for me to deny it for convenience and comfort.

EHYD – More afterthoughts on the 2nd speech

This trail of thoughts is quite different from the previous one and it has to do with the way we treat logic and reason.

I can’t help myself in blaming religion again – but I do think that Christianity has affected people in reacting to reason in a way that I could compare to fear (I’m talking about the west. Of course other religions are to blame in other parts of the world :p ). And so we have a situation that I find a bit ironic:

On one hand almost everyone will get offended if you tell them they are irrational and will of course recognise the importance of logic. «Being rational» is a «label» that most people want for themselves and they take pride in «wearing» – even if it does not really fit them at all.

They will however accept irrational behaviour from themselves and from others if they name it «sentimental». Most people totally separate logic and sentiment in their minds, thinking these two are in an eternal battle and of course sentiments must win. It’s ok if you act like a crazy sociopath or a total jerk, as long as it is a «sentimental» reaction. Then it is humane, even welcomed by some people as a proof that you have feelings and you are not a robot.

Hearing things like that made me realise that people treat logic and sentiments as two mutually exclusive things. Like if there is only so much space in your brain for these two and you have to determine a percentage for each one, let’s say to find a balance with 50% logic and 50% sentiment. That means that 50% of the times you can act like a cold, calculating machine and the rest of the times you can act like a crazy person. Thankfully, it doesn’t work like that.

The last couple of years, I started praising logic in every chance and trying to show people the fallacy in the aforementioned way of thinking. In the many talks I had on the subject, I often get replies such as: «Of course you have to be rational BUT you also need sentiments», «you need a balance», «logic is ok but we are nothing without feelings»*.

Why? Why do people have to bring up sentiments every time I talk about logic? Why do they think that logic tries to kick feelings out of our lives? Being rational doesn’t mean you’re incapable of feeling things, it just means you are examining those feelings, you analyse them and know what you experience and why. Many people will tell you that then the «magic is gone», because apparently there is some kind of magical attractiveness in not knowing yourself, not understanding what you feel, in acting impulsively and probably ending up hurting people in the process. Yes, this is what happens when you don’t stop and think about your feelings.

Well, if you do work with yourself and you do analyse your thoughts and feelings you might not get excited with every little stupid thing. That does not mean you’ll never get excited. You will, but with people and situations that are better suited for you. You will even make mistakes and impulsive decisions – but at least you will expect the consequences and learn from them. Most importantly, you have less chances of hurting people around you and yourself, because you will know what you want and why.

I really can’t understand how some people appreciate more the irrational – almost paranoid – behaviour that can be a result of someone being a mindless, blind sentimental being than the stability and maturity that come with thinking, analysing and understanding your feelings. How is it possible for people not wanting to get to know themselves better? How can they be satisfied with claiming «that’s how I feel». Yes you do, but WHY?

*I stumble upon that way of thinking in more issues lately. Marriage and the seriousness of relationships, left and right in politics (especially in Greece), wanting to have free time and laziness, playing computer games and being social etc.

I feel it’s getting harder and harder expressing an opinion without having someone replying with a «yes but what-I-consider-to-be-the-oposite-of-what-you’re-saying is not a better option».

Oh boy, do I have news for you? I am not obliged to choose between 2 mutually exclusive situations in every issue in my life. Rejecting (or preferring) something doesn’t mean I automatically embrace (or never do) what (you consider to be) the opposite! The spectrum of choices we get is usually much wider and we can have a multifaceted personality instead of a two-dimensional, black-and-white one.

EHYD – Afterthoughts on the 2nd speech

The afterthoughts on the 2nd speech will deviate a bit from humanism; it’s more about personal thoughts but I do think they are connected to religion in a way – or in this case the lack of it.

Death

Nope, this time it isn’t about Morpheus sweet sister. Talking about philosophers, Blom mentioned Diderot and his feelings towards death since he denounced his faith. And from what I’ve heard (and as Blom also said) I should read his work cause I have developed similar – kind of panic stricken – feelings. It is a weird, irrational fear that I find hard to explain – even though I have talked about it a lot with several people.

Many atheists who were christians before, tell me that they feel liberated from the fear of death since they stopped believing in god. For them death was a possibility of eternal punishment, something unknown that could – and probably would – be very unpleasant. For me that was never the case. Death was just the next step. This life would end – no it wouldn’t even end, it would change to something different but just as good. I now realize that I was always reassured by the idea of keeping my consciousness. No matter what would happen after death, I would still be me because I would remember this life, my memories, my ideas, my tastes; everything that forms my current personality would go on, existing forever.

Of course this idea about after life was totally arbitrary and it changed. In the slow process towards atheism I came to believe that there is nothing after this life. We die and that’s it. Nothing of ourselves remains in any form or way. For many people that seems to be relieving. For me it is terrifying. Since I find it hard to explain I will try to do so by answering several arguments I’ve heard against it:

«Since we won’t exist after death we won’t care about it, so we shouldn’t be afraid».

Well obviously, I don’t care about what happens after death cause I already think that nothing happens after it. I don’t even care so much about the process of dying itself – which of course can be scary and painful etc but it’s not my main concern at the moment. It’s missing now that bothers me. I love what I have now, with all its ups and downs, happiness and sadness, creativity and procrastination. I love being able to think, to challenge myself and my beliefs, to bond with people, to enjoy music, painting, computer games! It’s not a matter of doing important things, it’s just about living, whatever that means.

«Death makes life unique – otherwise we wouldn’t appreciate it» and that comes often with
«Death is natural, it’s part of the circle of life and if you love life you should also love death»

Ok, I understand the concept of appreciating a situation when you have faced (or there is a possibility of facing) the opposite one but first of all I don’t agree with that 100% and also I don’t see how is that supposed to make me feel better. I don’t need to go to the desert without rations to value water. Sure, I might appreciate it more then but I don’t need to go to that extreme to realize its importance. In general, I can think rationally and I can cherish what I have without constant fear of losing it. If I would treasure it more due to that fear I don’t really care, I don’t think that difference worth’s it. The price is too high for a bit more appreciation than what I already have. And sure, death is natural, unavoidable and all that but that doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it in order to be happy about life. I can accept it but it can still bother me. Death is not part of life, it’s not the final act, it’s the end of it.

Is this part of the movie?

Is this part of the movie?

 At some point Blom said that Diderot found solace through art and I wonder if he meant that producing art soothed him. That I can very well understand, arts or anything that makes us feel good, helps us focus on now and kind of forget about what’s coming next. It is only rational to look for pleasures – let them be carnal, culinary, aesthetic or just Sunday evenings…

But he could also mean that the thought of producing art and leaving something behind made him feel better. Which brings me to another argument:

«We die but our legacy goes on, our actions affect life after us»

Well… «Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn«. It might be obvious by now that I don’t care about what happens after my death. My fear is founded on a selfish need to keep living. Sure I will be very happy if humanistic values are established on earth and even more happy if I help in any way towards that but still, that offers no comfort regarding death. Just the fact that we managed to be conscious of ourselves, to realize we exist and everything that comes with it, only to lose it someday is pissing me off a bit.

The final argument I will discuss is «since our time here is limited we should live our life in the fullest».

Again, no comfort against death. Apparently not wanting to die won’t make me sit at home all day, panicking and missing life. If anything it will make me try to live it in the fullest indeed – though I am not trying to fill every moment of my life with events and people just for that (as I’ve mentioned before I consider procrastination part of the pleasures of life :p) Still that doesn’t change the fact: this something that I am experiencing now I will eventually lose. It can be tomorrow or in 50 years, it will never be enough.

EHYD – Philipp Blom

Second that day was Philipp Blom, an engaging speaker and what seems to be a very approachable and warm person.  His speech was quite long and it was late so unfortunately many people (including me), were too tired to fully participate but the subjects he touched are very important for the shape of today’s society.  He inspired me to read more on these topics (and his books are next on my ever-growing list).

What’s more, he mentioned 2 issues that has been tormenting me for a while, so his speech was of special personal importance – but that will be analyzed on the second part of this article.  His main topic was the enlightenment and the criticism it faces. We live in difficult times – even though many could argue that they’re not so difficult as other times in the past. Still, what you experience always affects you more than what you read in history books so people are striving with many problems and tend all too easily to turn fingers upon the «guilty». Which might not always be guilty at all of course, but we need to point our fingers to someone or something. So many people today think the enlightenment is a failure, either because it had potential but didn’t manage to be radical enough to fully reach it or because its values were not good to begin with and they lead us to an immoral society.

The “not radical enough” side

According to Blom enlightenment gave much less than it actually could, only because the people who are considered to be its prominent figures were too “conservative” in their radicalism. Yes, they did have a vision of a better society and valued reason but they were too comfortable or too afraid to fundamentally question the status quo of the time. It was probably a smart thing to do, you have to see when the world is ready to accept such a change and when it has to be slowly introduced. This resulted of course to many other voices who could profoundly shake the world out of its lethargy being overheard, ignored, lost or forgotten.  Oh, there was also the penalty of death, that can shut many mouths too. He mentioned an example which combines a bit of both, the lengthy testament of Meslier, a French priest who lived in the 18th century and who grew to despise his religion because he saw what the church – but also blind belief – did to the people of his province. He was a kind man and loved his people, and denied not only the church but also the existence of a naturally good God in a world where evil, injustice and ignorance even exist. He is apparently well educated in theosophical issues and he knows his bible so his arguments are quite good.

It always surprises me when I read thoughts written in centuries long gone with direct application to today’s modern society. Well, Meslier was much more rational, clever and educated than many people today; how sad is that in the age of information?

Anyway, I’m slightly drifting away from my point. Which was Voltaire, maybe the most prominent figure of the enlightenment. As some of you may have already guessed this book is called the testament of Meslier because it’s just that, his testament. He lived his life in fear of revealing his thoughts – and not unjustifiable, he would lose his job and everything he had, possibly including his life. So this book circulated in the circles of scholars of the age after his death and eventually Voltaire, recognizing its value, decided to publish it. A concise edition of it. By doing so he apparently left out an enormous amount of accusations against the church and god himself – he presented Meslier more as a deist than an atheist. The result: many radical ideas were presented in a much more «submissive» way.

We can see that the pioneers of enlightenment chose a more “conservative” radical way, and these are the values of enlightenment we have today in our minds when we speak about these years.   We can however re-evaluate these principles and search even further in the works of those who had a brighter vision of the future.

The “way too radical” side

Yet other people accuse the enlightenment to be too radical, too “reasonable” and thus devoid of emotion and morality. Now the fact that some (too many) people seem to think reason and logic are the opposites of emotion and morality is too an important problem to discuss here – it should get its own article. I wonder however, all these people who talk about the immoral society in which enlightenment has led us, how would they define ethics and moral laws if not by logic? They praise tradition and emotion but can you use these to establish an objective map of human rights and dictate moral behavior?

Traditions are regional and it’s all too easy to see they’re often wrong. Human sacrifice was a tradition in many places once, we didn’t get over this by being more conservative and emotional but by being more reasonable. The same goes for slavery, women rights, working conditions etc. Our society sure has its issues but it is much more ethical than it used to be. I think it’s safe to say that at no other time in human history so far were there so many people caring about other people’s rights and welfare. And I don’t mean about people who are in our comfort zone or belong in our group but for people who may live far away or have opinions totally different than we have. Atheists promoting irreligion and “fighting” for the religious rights of minorities could be a good example. Humanistic organizations try to help people in underdeveloped lands in a variety of ways and there were even cases where the international judgment managed to save people from death sentences or provided refugee to people whose lives were in danger. That “immoral” society actually does something no society has ever done before. By defying stagnant traditions and thinking rationally people managed to ascent beyond their own little private worlds and started fighting for a better future for everyone. And all that because we put aside the differences created by traditions and irrational fears (=uncontrolled and unexplained emotions) and we try to use our brains to get to rational conclusions. Being logical doesn’t mean you’re emotionless; you’re just analyzing your emotions and learn from them instead of blindly act without ever stopping to think about it.

All in all, enlightenment did change our world for the better and we shouldn’t discard its ideas so quickly – there were values there that transcend beyond the limits of their age and we should keep looking for, using and developing them.

Further reading:
A Wicked Company
An intro to Enlightenment
The enlightenment’s true radicals

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Next Article: Afterthoughts on the 2nd speech

EHYD – Afterthoughts on the 1st speech

As expected, this speech made me think a lot about religion and how we evaluate its place in our society. For better or worse when there are conservative problems depriving a minority of people of their rights, religion is always somewhere there, usually in the front row of the opposition, scaring people into hating each other. Again for better or worse Christianity is the main religion in Europe so that’ll be my main target  – it doesn’t mean I don’t dislike other religions just as much.

Now, dislike is a strong word and might annoy even some fellow humanists-atheists but my reasons are explained in detail:

Sophie In’t Veld mentioned at some point how beautiful the diversity we have is. Variety helps us progress as people, improve ourselves. She said a story about a conversation with 2 people, one from an ex communist country and one from Spain. The first one said that in EU he found his freedom, the freedom to believe without being prosecuted for it. The second one said that in EU he found his freedom, the freedom to be an atheist without being prosecuted for it. And there they are, both free in different ways and living in harmony with each other.

That is indeed all very nice BUT the moral of this story is not that it is beautiful when people believe in different things. The moral of this story is that you shouldn’t force any believe or the lack of it to anyone. You can’t make someone be an atheist, that’s absurd and stupid.

But you can and you must educate people. Variety is nice when we like different colors and so we make our worlds colorful and happy – or black and shadowy, now THAT’s variety. Variety is nice when I don’t like mushrooms in my pizza and I give them to my friend who loves them. Variety is nice when we have different experiences and we share them, seeing the world from another point of view and maybe even re-examining some of our ideas.

Now imagine this: you walk in a conversation where one person says lightning comes from Zeus, another says it comes from Thor and another one says it comes from invisible fairies who squeeze the clouds. What are you thoughts?

“Oh gosh, what a great variety of ideas! It just made me a better person to listen to all these different opinions about how lightning comes, I better not tell them the truth and ruin that which they choose to believe”.

I sure hope not! Most people would at least try to explain that this is not a great mystery, we know what causes lightings. Ok, not all of us can explain it in perfect scientific terms but we have a notion of what’s going on and good guy wikipedia is always available for things like that.

Of course it's a real photo sweetie!!

Of course it’s a real photo sweetie!!

Well, I don’t know how to break this to you but that’s what religions are. A distorted and WRONG idea about what’s going on and loads of people who lie to themselves and defy their logic in order to keep an irrational faith. And no, this is not an elitist opinion, it’s a simple fact.

There are 2 big categories of Christians.

1. “I accept everything the church says and does, they are the word of God on earth”.

Ok, I don’t think it’s really necessary to say much about why these people are dangerous but just in case:

These people accept amazingly lots of false information regarding scientific, social and ethical matters. I met someone who thinks the earth is 6000 old. How on this-surprisingly-young-earth can I marvel in the variety of ideas there? He’s just wrong! It’s so wrong that I can’t help disliking people like that. Because they could know the truth and they choose not to. That is plain stupidity in my dictionary.

There are things that we know, things that we’ve known for years and things that the scientists know and we don’t yet cause let’s face it, we don’t bother learning them. It doesn’t mean God and the Bible are the explanation, that’s actually the opposite of explanation. As Dawkins said, if you use God to explain a phenomenon not only you don’t explain it but you also stop yourself from finding its real cause because you stop looking for it.

Also, these are the people who will kill someone because their faith says so. They are more extreme in some countries and explode themselves killing hundreds and subtler in other countries, just letting a woman die to avoid an abortion (I have to note here that they somehow fail to inform people that sex before marriage is also a sin, so having a bunch of unmarried, underage mothers is somehow ok unlike using condoms or having abortions even for medical reasons… Go figure!). I never understood why killing is a sin but letting someone die when you could very easily save them is ok. How isn’t that murder? You deny someone the chance to live, wake up, it’s not gonna send you to paradise. Of course that’s the state’s fault for allowing this things to exist, you just can’t have hospitals that treat people only if it fits their believes.

So for this category of believers I think it’s quite straightforward why the “marvelous variety” thingy doesn’t work. It’s reason and sanity against irrationality and crazy behavior. I’m not saying we should force them to think otherwise, I just think (and hope) that proper education would do the trick and of course laws should protect individuals when their safety is threatened by this insanity.

2. “I don’t accept the church or their interpretation of the bible, they are corrupted and they use it for their own means – I am a good catholic/orthodox/whatever heresy I follow, the church is just wrong at some points”

Yeah, well… No. Orthodoxy is the interpretation of the Bible according to the Orthodox Church, Catholicism is the interpretation of the Bible according to the Catholic church etc etc etc. So no, I won’t accept the easy – yet extremely cowardice – solution of rejecting the church but keeping the organized religion, I’ve done it and I know it’s just an excuse not to look too deeply to things that might shake your faith.

Would you accept he's a humanist if he just claims he is? Words have a meaning, use them right.

Would you accept he’s a humanist if he just claims he is? Words have a meaning, use them right.

You don’t get to follow a ridiculously specific dogma among the hundreds of existing Christian heresies and pick and choose which parts you like and which you don’t. That’s organized religion and dogmas, you get all or nothing. What most people do is following personal religions, choosing the parts of the books that fit better with their personality and ideas for morality. That’s good, but I’d like it if people could be self-aware and recognize that this attitude does not make them members of an organized religion. Yes, I find this very important. First of all I think it makes a person better and stronger to be able to face such simple truths about themselves and it leads them to better self understanding. Plus here is the part where I feel they temporarily pause their rational and critical thinking. Accepting arbitrary bits and pieces of an organized religion and yet passionately loving it as a whole and identify yourself as a follower of this religion even though some of your believes are in direct opposition with its dogma… Well it is kind of messed up when it comes to logic and I really value reason (more will be said in the following article).

My second problem is that they do hurt the human rights movement, even if it is indirectly.

Of course these people can very well accept scientific truths and human rights etc etc so it’s all nice but still, they almost never defy their church. When the church says something like «80% of Europe is Christian» (suddenly the differences between heresies lose their importance) they are included in the percentage. When the church makes stupid decisions and puts pressure in governments and organization to choose the wrong way these people are used as statistics and – what’s worse – they won’t go out and say “Wait, we are Catholics but we don’t want women to be treated like shit, let them do whatever they want with their bodies”. Nope, they are silent and their silence allows the church to speak representing the whole of the herd (no insult meant, it’s bible’s terminology). Their inaction has consequences and they have to face them.

I’m not going to argue over the existence of a God as described by Deism – the philosophy of it is interesting but not within the objectives of this article. Such a God would be out of reach, not represented by holly books and cannot be used as an argument in favour of organized religion which – I can’t stress this point enough – promotes very specific believes and moral behaviour.

Respecting one’s beliefs doesn’t mean you are not allowed to criticize them or to try and educate them if they lack some knowledge or even try to change those beliefs if they result in people getting hurt.

In our strive to be politically correct we forget that people can make mistakes and that sometimes it’s not a matter of different viewpoints but of right and wrong.

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EHYD – Sophie In’T Veld

Soooo, it’s time for my second article for the European Humanist Youth days and the first to present a speech. I am not going to try to transfer exactly what every speaker said, it’ll be mostly the impression I was left with and my thoughts on the context each time. And so it begins:

The first speaker was Sophie In’t Veld, a dynamic and interesting person, who spoke passionately about human rights and their representation in the European Union.

Apparently there are many conservative forces in the committee responsible for human rights and the EU in general keeps a kind of neutral-cowardice position when an issue arises in a country-state. No big news I guess but I have to admit that for me the EU is a beacon of equality, religious tolerance and humanistic ideals. I understand that it doesn’t enforce those ideals on countries but it encompasses them and supports them and that’s a good first step. The problem is that this is considered an awkward issue – still. It’s like messing with each country’s free will – surely you don’t want to impose your ideas on them (but as our speaker said they have no problem imposing them when it comes to economic issues).

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I agree that nations should be free to govern themselves as they see fit but there is point where Europe has to interfere (within the Union at least). And that point is when people’s lives are in danger. And not only in actual, physical danger but also in psychological danger.

Sophie In’t Veld told a story of a woman who – not so long ago – died in Ireland because they refused to give her an abortion (I think it’s this one). She had complications, she was taken to a Catholic hospital, they couldn’t do anything and they knew the child would probably die –as would the mother. Yet they didn’t want to take an innocent life so they took two instead.

That is the actual, physical damage that conservatism and blind belief can cause and I’ll come back to that on the second part of this article.

I can’t ignore though the subtler damage done by rejection. Feeling that you are wrong as an entity, a freak of nature who doesn’t deserve to love and to be loved can result to serious psychological issues and consequently to dysfunctional adults with damaged lives. Ok, they’re alive but still…

Being gay for example, can leave you stigmatized and ostracized in quite a few European countries. Of course some will say that there are many people who are ostracized even without apparent reason (some teenagers for example) or because they’re fat etc. And I’ll say “So what?”. The fact that there are several wrongs in our society cannot be used as an argument against trying to correct those we can. Plus if people learn to be tolerant and embrace differences then more than one problems will be solved.

Another “argument” is that this happens mostly in small places, in villages where the traditional values are more prominent, societies are more closed to themselves and blah blah blah. Again: So what? If you are different for any reason all you can do is hope you’ll be lucky enough to be born in an open-minded city or move or live in misery? Why should we accept that?

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the situation in Europe is bad. On the contrary, I am very positive and I see a constantly improving attitude towards human rights and equality. I can never forget that if I was born not so long ago – being a woman – I wouldn’t have the right to even say all these things. No, progress is forcing its way to our society, it’s unstoppable and it improves our lives every day. But that doesn’t mean we have to stop fighting. Good things happened in the past because people asked for them, demanded them and so should we. There is room for improvements and we can actively help achieving them sooner.

(For example we might not need to have a death to have these news).

Previous article: Introduction to the European Humanist Youth Days
Next article: Afterthoughts

European Humanist Youth Days 1

Last weekend I attended the first European Humanist Youth Days in Brussels, and it was a very interesting event which shook me out of my lethargy. I want to share this experience with you, my beloved reader, and for the first time I’ll do it in English since I want the people I met there to be able to comment and add their experience of it. Too many things happened and too many ideas were heard so there’ll be several articles – this is just the introduction:

First of all I would like to comment on the organization. It was really nice, everything went smoothly and the people who worked for that made everything very easy for us. I don’t know if they were getting crazy about it deep inside, but to us they were always smiling and friendly and everyone seemed quite cool. Also the music was surprisingly nice, I would like to thank someone for that :p

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It might be due to my own bias but I feel and instant difference when I enter a university campus. There is a different culture, an underground movement, “ghosts” of thoughts and positively troubled minds roaming around. This difference becomes a huge chasm when you come from the museum-and ridiculously protected yet of course very beautiful-city of Brugge. Here culture feels like something forced, something we have to do. But around universities this just happens, ideas and the need of expression through different mediums just explode and touch everyone – especially in countries where you have to pay for your education, so many of the people who go there actually care about their studies…

[Bachelor degrees are for free in Greece and many students tend to forget they should be grateful for having access to education]

As I said, this might be due to my own personal, romantic, biased ideas about universities and students, but I felt good from the moment I set my foot there.

The campus was great, green and welcoming. The endless free water, beer and soft drinks might have helped also :p At any moment we had access to drinks, decent toilets and usually food, which was a big success with so many people. There were many activities, interesting speeches and of course the chance to chat with everyone and I marvelled on how ideas that are similar on their basis can differ depending on the experiences of the individual and the social situation in each country.

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Everyone was more than eager to talk to everyone and even if you wanted to be blind and deaf to all around you it was impossible not to be drawn to the beauty of different cultures mingling and the variety of ideas “clashing”. Once more I felt that you are not better when you are with people from your own country, you are better around people you can communicate with – and if they happen to be from Germany, Holland, Italy, Greece or El Salvador who cares? The more the merrier… I felt a better connection with my lovely roommate from France in those 2 days than with many Greeks I’ve known for years…

So once again:

Europe should come together, people should forget about nations and differences. Our identities shouldn’t be defined by imaginary lines on maps nor should they be threatened by unification. Countries might be useful for practical reasons but it’s stupid to stick to them for definitions of who we are. Living together doesn’t mean we have to lose ourselves and become all the same, this is an irrational fear. Instinct might leads us in worshiping tribes but, for me, this is an instinct we should fight, alter, evolve.

Things always change, either we come in contact with others or not – and that’s good, being stale and unchangeable in a world that has so many new opportunities to offer is a waste of potential.

Following next:

Day 1 – Friday

European Union and Human Rights – how we treat religion and conservatism
Atheism and humanism – side thoughts after the speech
The values of renaissance – were they lost or misinterpreted?

 Day 2 – Saturday

Cold reading – when you trick yourself in believing

Anti-aging and who wants to live forever
Defining ourselves – side thoughts after the speech

 Day 3 – Sunday

I accuse – what are the issues for which we accuse our countries?

Chocolates!!! (well we are in Belgium after all :p)

Politicians and human rights