Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Spring cleaning

I want to touch on a few misconceptions that are floating around. Since we know that progress relies on knowledge, and knowledge relies on clarity, I think it'd be beneficial to strip away some of the false notions that have attached themselves to ideas we trade in religious debate. By scrubbing these ideas under warm soapy water we can clear away the muck that has been allowed to gather on them, and by doing so we help move the conversation along since we'll all be armed with a higher grade of ideas. So here we go!

“It takes more faith to be an Atheist.”

This idea is both wrong and strange, I'll start with showing why it's wrong. Atheism is not a faith position. At all. Not even kinda. It's simply the disbelief in one or more deities, or the supernatural. And since we don't have any evidence for believing in any of the near 10,000 Gods that humans have put forward over the years, the act of not believing in any one of them doesn't require any faith at all. Gods have never met their burden of proof and so they can be safely dismissed as a non-truth. (as one man puts it: that which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.)

If I told you that there was a square-circle on your head right now, and you didn't believe me, would you say that it requires faith to disbelieve? Of course not, since you know that a square-circle can't exist, it requires no faith at all to dismiss my assertion. Now If I would've said something rational, like: “broseph, you have some hair on your head” – that would've been a different story since you know hair can exist on heads.

“Atheism can't tell me how we got here, so I'm sticking with God.”

This is like your boss telling you that since you can't breath acidic fluids, he's going to replace you with a square-circle that claims it can. The first problem with your boss's thinking is pretty obvious: humans aren't meant to breathe acidic fluids, so to criticize them for not being able to is really illogical. Atheism isn't a scientific discipline, it isn't an answer factory – it's a reply to claims of the supernatural. If you don't require Atheism to bake you a delicious cake, then why would you expect it to do any other task it's not meant to do? Should we not believe in Judaism simply because it can't explain what's occupying the galactic center?

The second problem with this scenario is the choice of “replacement”. Again, a square-circle cannot exist; so when a person comes to any conclusion that requires the existence of one, we know the conclusion will fail since it relies on an impossibility. Think of it like this: if you submit a mathematical proof that starts off by stating “this proof assumes that 1+1=Bacon”, we don't have to continue past the start since we know the proof will fail. Saying that God explains how we got here is not much different than saying 1+1=Bacon – they're both wrong. As a side-note, at least Bacon can deliver eternal life and unending bliss, can your God do that?

“Well, Hitler and Stalin were Atheists, so belief is better than unbelief!”

Wow, really? First I'd point out that Atheism was not the cause for what those two did. Stop the internal dialogue, that wasn't the reason. Hitler and Stalin are great examples of authoritarian style of rule, and what it produces. Secondly, to say Hitler was an Atheist is to be pretty dishonest, he never once denounced his catholicism, as a matter of fact he said he was doing “the lord's work” in his book. He rallied against secular schools demanding religion be taught, and the first deal he cut as the new leader was with the catholic church, a church that liked him enough to celebrate his birthday every year! He talked about not only God, but about Jesus, in his speeches and in private; and he went so far as to have “God with us” put on the belts of his soldiers. I think the religious right is trying to pull a fast one on us, trying to pin the mess of their creation on other people like Atheists and socialists.

Lastly, this argument really fails and here's why: if we grant the dishonest tweaking of causation to make Atheism the cause of what those two did, the religious really screw themselves – their body count can then be measured not in millions, or tens of millions, not even in hundreds of millions – but we soar all the way up to the one billion mark (some say more). So it seems that after some really... creative... tactics the arguer only manages to present a rod for his own back. If I had the evils of religion weighing heavily on my shoulders I'd be very humble with any talk about force and violence; but in the highly compartmentalized mind of the average monotheist no such need exists, since their religion is only the one in their head, and things outside of their construct, like reason and evidence, often fail to penetrate.

Digg this


Drew said...

Very well put. It's nice to clean the muck every once in a while.

Parabola said...

I do what I can.

Post a Comment