Sunday, November 26, 2006

My Atheism

I've been blogging more on myspace mainly because its more convenient and I know a lot of people there. That being said it is not my intention to let this blog die, thus we will say that SotR is on hiatus. Or more precisely on extreme slow down. Also I'm working 2 jobs and going to school. I still post at catallarchy when I get a chance and actually think of something I want to say, though not as often as I would like. Anyhow I am hoping that after mid january I'll be back down to 1 job and the blogging, writing, and internet surfing/prowling can begin again.

That being said I am actually here cause I got a lot of thoughts about atheism rushing through my brain. I find it kind of frustrating that many of the world's prominent atheists seem more focused on arguments against the existence of god instead of positive and important reasons to be atheist. Other than THE END IS NIGH reasons. I mean the x-tians got us way beat on end-of-the-world scenarios and apocalyptic visions, though the environmentalists generally do well in that department as well.

Here is what I think:

If there were a theistic God (or gods) it would

1. see a necessity in the existence of atheists and/or non-believers.

2. not condemn such necessary beings to an eternity of torment for not believing in it/them.

Its not that I have any desire to be an accepted and necessary part of some cultural deity's master plan. Mainly I want to give a theistic perspective to my own moral imperative to atheism/non-mysticism.

You see I've noticed that us humans have an amazing capacity for inventing, and imagining non-existent things. We dream of things, write about things, and fantasize about things that do not exist. We draw them, paint them, sculpt them, pretend to be them on certain holidays, and even present them as actual things on television and in theater. Now some of these things are not impossible and the very act of imagining them is the first step in bringing them to existence. Flying machines start as dreams, then drawings, sculptures, contraptions, and eventually become helicopters, planes, and even ornithopters.

Some of these things cannot really exist. Such as horses that dance across rainbows (I'm leaving implicit the idea that this is accomplished without any technology - sure we might could invent come kind of nanotech someday that will turn a rainbow into solid matter, and we could subsequently watch a real horse prance up it but thats really besides the point), old brooms that hover in the air can transport us across the sky, and individuals who can walk through solid bricks without the use of an opening (hole, doorway, window, etc.) of any kind.

You get the idea. The problem is sometimes we see things that our brains are telling us are there that cannot really exist, or that can exist but are in fact not really there. You wouldn't believe how many monsters I saw under my sister's bed as a child. Of course it wasn't only monsters. There were ghosts banging on drums, lions, bears, leopards, a gorrilla once right outside my window, witches, aliens squatting in the corner, and bugs many, many, nonexistent (and sometimes existent bugs) invaded my bedroom at night. Or so my brain would tell me.

I had a particular fear of ants. One night I woke up in the wee hours of the morning and turned around to my pillow after having a particularly bad dream about ants and was horrified to discover that my pillow was in fact an anthill. It had a checkered pillowcase which had become a little twisted from where my head had been. In the dark it looked as though there were small dark bugs wondering up the sides of my pillow, following the spiral up to the top and entering right where my head had been.

It took me what felt like hours to convince myself that what I thought I was seeing could not in fact exist. I knew in my brain that my pillow could not have been transformed into an anthill while I was sleeping on it. I knew that what I was seeing was likely an optical illusion from the checkered pillow case in the dark. I knew that ants would have no reason to turn a pillow into their nest in the context of an inhabitted bedroom. Yet for me at that age it felt like a risky venture to allow rational thought to defeat the credibility of what my eyes were telling me was there. Eventually tugged at the pillow, the illusion vanished, and my fear subsided enough for me to put my head back on it and go to sleep.

The point is that as humans it is very easy to fool ourselves. It is easy for millions or even billions of people to believe in nonexistant things. In fact I suspect its easier to do it in large groups because we reinforce one another's beliefs. That is the point of the scientific method. To make sure that what we think we are observing we really are observing. The interpretation of a perceived pheonomenon is still up for debate, but we can know that something was observed even if its not what we think it is.

This brings me to the big "What if?" Imagine 5 people are stranded in the jungle they all get bitten by the same mosquitoes and all of them get sick, and 4 out of 5 die. What if you concluded that the survival of the 5th person was a miracle from god. Sure there are plenty of religious folk out there that would not stop with "it's God's will" or "it's a miracle," but at one time thats exactly what they would have done. And there are those that would stop there even today, and would not question a declared miracle of God.

Now suppose that that 5th person had eaten some berries and that those berries turned out to be a natural antibiotic to the bacteria in the mosquitos. If the investigations stops at the religious explanation, you never discover the cure that could save and protect others.

Thus the question goes, if I believe in things that I have no evidence for the existence of, will I miss what is really there, could I miss or fail to investigate a mystery, will I stop the search at an easy declaration of the will of an omnipotent benefactor? For if it is the will of God, am I not "explaining away" the miracle by finding a natural, physical, scientifically provable explanation?

My definition for supernatural is summed up in 1 word: "nonexistent." I have a moral imperative to not believe in supernatural things, in mystic and magical things, because it is important that I not be deluded into believing in something that isn't really there and thus missing what is.

That being said just because there is no hard evidence for the esistence of a thing does not mean that it doesn't exist. To believe in the existence of any one thing requires first and foremost that it be something that can be proved to exist or not exist if evidence were attained. For example I believe that extraterrestrial life exists even though we do not yet have evidence of such. That life could be some algae on a rock a billion light years away.

Though it is not scientific to declare that such algae/life exists it would be equally unscientific to declare it non-existent due to a lack of evidence. Put simply we can't speak to that which we don't know.

So finally I get back to my original statement. I think that if a theistic god existed it would want and see a necessity non-believers and/or atheists to exist, and seeing the necessity of their existence would not punish them for their beliefs.

This is presuming a god that created human beings, and is benevolent to some degree (i.e. wants them to thrive and prosper). The advance of human society and technology requires that somebody investigate that which we cannot explain. The miracles, the ghosts in the attic, why some things burn one color and others burn another color, why the wind blows (at some point someone had to doubt that this was merely the breath of god). At some point someone has to challenge the mysteries, and the miracles, and that takes people who aren't satisfied with the explanation "it was the will of God."

That person doesn't have to be an atheist, there are many shade of gray between doubting a popular explanation of a phenomenon and declaring the nonexistence of a theistic being. But to me the one leads easily to the other and thus atheism can be seen as a natural extension of that societal doubt. For what is an atheist if not someone who doubts and/or disbelieves the popular explanation of how and why we and all that exists exists.

Atheists do not doubt God, there is no God, they doubt their fellow humans, though more specifically they doubt the non-scientific explanations that their fellow humans often devise to explain things they don't understand, like how we came to exist.

Thus if there is a God (and there isn't lol), and if said God gives a rats ass about humanity, and those humans which it presumably made and gives a rats ass about, are fallible then it needs us - the skeptics, the non-believers, the atheists.