Allow me to elaborate.
Earlier today, I found a very compelling article by Mark Thomas at http://www.godlessgeeks.com titled “Why Atheism?” It’s a wonderful article and I found myself engrossed in it. Mr. Thomas made many valid points for atheism vs. theism and I found myself nodding my head along to many things he wrote. It’s heavily science-based, stating science give empirical evidence disproving many things about what many hold true for religion, mainly the standard theories of evolution and so on and so forth.
He talks about the Bible being story-telling at its finest, and as I like to refer to the Bible as “a giant game of Telephone,” meaning what one person said has been manipulated over the centuries to the point where the original meaning has been lost. The works of the Bible are pure fiction, in my opinion, but that’s beside the point now.
Some of my favorite points from the article:
“Until a couple of hundred years ago, most people thought that a god or gods controlled everything. ‘Why does the wind blow?’ ‘Why is there lightning and thunder?’ ‘Why did the sun, moon and stars apparently go around the Earth?’ ‘Why did someone get sick and die?’ Why did anything happen? Well, obviously, GOD did it. If a person doesn’t know how anything works or why something happened, they can say, ‘God did it,’ also known as ‘god of the gaps’ and it is the heart of the conflict between science and religion. Science looks for natural causes, while religion looks for supernatural causes (I get a lot of flack for using the word “supernatural” in discussions like this…many people hear “supernatural” and assume ghostly apparitions and drawers/doors opening and closing of their own volition. Supernatural in this instance, refers to a force beyond scientific understanding or the laws of nature). Science is steadily winning, because as we understand more and more about the universe, the gap where a god might function grows smaller and smaller. Every time we learn more, gods have less room to operate. When we learned what caused the sun to move across the sky, there was no need for the Greek god Helios and his chariot. When we understood what caused lightning, there was no need for the Greek god Zeus.”
“The idea of an all-controlling, caring supernatural god is a very attractive one. It can make our lives seem less frightening, more comforting. Somebody’s in control and won’t let bad things happen to us.”
“This article is an argument in support of reason, rationality, intellectual honesty, and truth. We must know truth to act wisely and truth comes from physical reality…why am I doing this? Is it because I want to poke holes in people’s beliefs so that we can take away what makes them happy? No, I’m doing this because I want to know what is true, be intellectually honest, and open to reality.”
The first paragraph should make anyone reading chuckle a bit in spite of themselves, theist or atheist. How silly some of the things we held true back in the days when we truly did believe that a god was responsible for them! It reminds me of the old Japanese belief that earthquakes and tsunamis are causes by a giant catfish living under them and when it rolled over, that’s what caused these disasters. We know that is not the case due to the study of seismology and understanding of how tectonic plates moves against each other. Galileo proved the Earth revolved around the sun, not the other way around. Ben Franklin and his kite proved how lightning works.
We are an intelligent species. We have figured things out by proving them. We have evidence to back these claims and they are widely regarded as fact, hence the desire of an atheist to have hardcore, reliable evidence of a god existing, and so far, we just haven’t found that yet.
Now, this is where I begin to waver a bit in my personal philosophy, and the reason for this post. For the most part, I am with science. However, I also keep an objective mind that science isn’t 100% fail-proof and fact. There are things scientists do not know, and to their credit, state they don’t know why certain things work as they do. As Mark Thomas writes later, “when faced with the unknown, let’s first note that it’s perfectly okay to say, ‘I don’t know,’ or ‘we don’t know,’–just as it would have been when people in the past asked, ‘what causes lightning or tornadoes?’ or countless other questions for which we now have straightforward scientific explanations. Obviously, just because we don’t know how something happened does not mean that a god did it. Relegating an explanation of something to a god is easy; a person doesn’t have to think much…we can’t simply explain something mysterious by appealing to something more mysterious for which there is less evidence.”
I realize that is slightly contradictory, but I think I made my point–pure and simple, there are things we don’t know, but instead of claiming a god is responsible, we are committed to solving this problem and finding a solution. This appeals to my senses and goes back to when I was a small child and would constantly ask my father questions about things. No, Dad, wind isn’t caused by trees sneezing.
Mark’s second and third paragraphs kind of slapped me upside the head because those few sentences sum up my own beliefs and my thoughts of religion. Of COURSE the idea of something greater than ourselves, watching over us and protecting us is a good one. We aren’t alone on this giant chunk of rock after all. We have a watchman in the sky looking out for us and he won’t let anything bad happen to us! And most people believe in God purely based on the design of the world: “the sunset is beautiful!” giving a god credit for the beauty and good in the world, but what about the bad things? Who gets credit for that? “Praise God for this horrible forest fire that destroyed millions of acres of trees and killed thousands of animals!” What loving god would also inflict pain and suffering to his followers?
I also have difficulty debating with theists because I have close family members who believe in God. I am not going to go up to them and tell them they are foolish for their beliefs because who am I to dictate what they believe in, especially if this gives them comfort and makes them happy? To do so is dangerous and cavalier of me. I do know some atheists who enjoy doing so to theists and that’s behavior that I do not acknowledge.
The key to being a good atheist–hell, a good person in general– is to practice compassion and keep an open mind towards other beliefs; just because they are not your own doesn’t make them false or wrong by any means.
I think I’m done with writing about atheism for a while. It sparks such an emotional response from people and the air is thick with debate and I hate conflict. I just want people to get along. It’s a pipe dream, I realize, but dang it. Let’s make it happen anyway.
Until then, whatever you believe in, I will remain yours fondly,