Atheism
 

 

By Peter Gransee

11/23/06 AM

 

Atheism is, "the doctrine or belief that there is no God." (Princeton wordnet)

 

It is ironic that Atheism can come across as a form of extremism. It doesn't say, "I don't know". It says, "I know and other people would be smart ("brights", "delusion", other marketing attempts used by atheists) to agree with me". What is silly is that it claims to know or otherwise negotiate with something that can't be proven.

 

“You argue for something which cannot be proved beyond a shadow of a doubt without placing faith in some portion of it, therefore debunking your claims to the absence of such a thing.”

 

An agnostic is a bit more truthful. When asked about God, the agnostic response is, "I simply don't know about that topic". 

 

This inherent incongruity is probably one of the reasons atheism is not that popular. It criticizes faith while requiring faith and close mindedness while requiring an extreme position. It is at war with itself.

 

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Some atheists/theists are so afraid of contrary views they have to drag science and law into what is a philosophical argument and try to censor the other's view.

 

I can understand if a person just doesn't like the idea of a God. Let's say such a person is offended with the idea and is therefore predisposed to any anti-god thinking. Ok, I understand this. But try to remain calm. Please don't say that Science proves your position.

 

Here’s a typical conversation between an Atheist and a Scientist:

 

A: Believing in God is a delusion!

S: delusion: an erroneous belief that is held in the face of evidence to the contrary.

S: Has science now produced evidence to the contrary?

A: No, but it hasn't produced evidence supporting it either.

S: Sorry, you need both to rule out coincidence, etc. Otherwise, we can discuss your theory for a bit.

A: But I thought Science says you only have to not have proof for something to be false. Therefore, I cite scientific proof as my reason for not believing in a god.

S: You cite no proof as proof? Sorry, that's not how it works. While we are at it, if you insist on forcing your belief into my science and making me pay for it, then at least be fair and include all the other taxpayer's beliefs as well. At least that way the discussion will be balanced. But the better solution is to respect the boundaries between science and philosophy.

A: But don't you think it is kinda stupid to believe in something that is not proven?

S: Your using "stupid" as a value judgment and I assume you are using Science as the metric. A belief may be stupid by some other metric but Science is only applicable if the belief is proven or disproved. Note the subtle difference between your question and my answer.

S: You see, there is a difference between the following statements:

 

   - is proven rigorously

   - is not proven but is not disproved either

   - is disproved rigorously

 

When a concept occupies the region in the middle, it is currently inaccessible to science. Science can discuss it as a theory, but a scientist that spends all day discussing theories instead of working on proof, it not yet very successful as a scientist. No offense, but it is what it is. I think that science without proof is just philosophy and a dishonest one at that.

 

A: That's nice. Are you saying a belief in a levitating pasta monster is not stupid?

S: Again, I respect that you will believe what you want. But until you can apply scientific rigor to it, don't drag science into what essentially is a philosophical discussion.

A: Ok, different tact. It is ok for a scientist to have beliefs?

S: Of course, they are human. And humans are observed to have beliefs. My opinion is that we should be careful that what is a belief is identified as such and what is science is identified as such. Problems are more likely to occur when the boundary is blurred between the two.

A: well, I am scientist too and I don’t think a belief in a god is intelligent

 

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To believe is to know you believe, and to know you believe is not to believe.
  - Jean-Paul Sartre

 

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I watched a talk given by David Berlinski about his new book, "The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions" recently. This might be a good read for those interested in this topic. Apparently, Berlinksi is not a religious person but he has a problem with science being invaded by the atheists/theists.

 

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At a later time, I would like to detail here more about the practical issues and everyday problems of accepting a faith that relies on the lack of contrary evidence. I would argue that faith is unavoidable in everyday life so it would be prudent to be mature in our faith. We should exercise our faith muscles even if only for defensive reasons. There are good practices that could be learned that apply to all situations. A culture that is immature in its faith will be susceptible to all types of deception. It is a fact of life that we still do not know everything (for example, what everyone is thinking), someday we may, but until then faith is a reality. Why does it seem those who cling most desperately to science and try to live a life of only proof, are those most susceptible to deception? When we pretend life can be lived only in the realm of facts, then we ignore and are therefore influenced without our knowledge those things that cannot be avoided and yet still require faith. They have tried to ignore the 900lb gorilla in their mind and in pretending it is not there, they have become it's plaything. Think!

 

How much of all the knowledge in the universe do we think we know currently? Remember that our bias makes what we know seem more than what we don't know. Yes, yes. On our present course, we will discover everything eventually. But thinking we live in that future is the same as living today like we know everything. Imaginary but not practical. We can believe that science will continue to move forward without having to believe that we are now free of belief.

 

I think what really has happened for some people is that they just have a problem with the idea of a supernatural being in place over them. Or maybe the unknown terrifies them. That's is ok. However, because they think they can't argue the problem directly, they scatter and some unfortunately find themselves in strange imaginary worlds. For example, claiming they don't need faith. The thinking that they can live entirely on only what is proven. If a person could live that way and not hurt themselves, then their position would not be as sad.

 

Proof is reasonable evidence. You could say that as proof increases, less faith is required. Since the goal of science is proof, then some over-eager adherants may think that science is at odds with faith. But it is no more at odds with fiction, imagination or theory. Although science replaces theory with proof, it must start with theory. And since so much is to be discovered, theories are a constant reality. Therefore, a good scientist should be proficient in dealing with theories. If they denied the value of theory, then they would be greatly hindered in their discovery. The loss of faith is a science crippled.

 

Maybe this is why Einstein said, "science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind".

 

(published in the journal Nature, 1940)

 

Some of those who claim to be protectors of science are denying the importance of faith and in doing so they are placing science at risk. If they are allowed to continue unchecked, science will be damaged. The rate of discovery will be greatly reduced.

 

The point I want to develop further is not about this or that religion but the importance of faith.

 

 

A mature faith is the most efficient path to proof.

 

 

Someone might say, "but if we still believed as the ancients did, we wouldn't have put men on the moon, etc". But you are contrasting different kinds of faith not faith versus proof. Proper faith seeks proof. To hold proof in our hands and ignore the path it took to get here (via faith), is to insure that we are less likely to experience new proof in the future. The statement, "a mature faith is the most efficient path to proof" also says that an immature faith is the least efficient path to proof. If we agree that faith is unavoidable and proof is desirable, then we should strive for a mature faith. This is honesty in everything, even the difficult things.


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Awhile back I noticed a feeling of anger in various atheists I was talking to. Not angry at me but ironically angry with God. When I asked about it, everyone, to a person, quickly denied they were angry with God. After all, they would say, "how can I be angry with someone who doesn't exist". That's what I would think as well. 


But I do wonder. A person who claims to be an intellectual (and most atheists really want to be seen that way) would also probably admire the scientific method. This method feeds on things we don't know and seeks to convert them into fact. Look at the passion in discovering new species of mold. You would think discovering a species of sentient life forms would also be equally exciting. This excuse that there is currently no evidence of that species would not be something to be flaunted but instead be humbling for the truly curious. 


Look at how the SETI people continue to have no proof of ET (in the face of the Fermi paradox, etc) but yet they passionately continue to search? Are they stupid for doing this? Are they deluded?


I realize that in our search for knowledge we need to pick our battles. Discovering a species of flying spaghetti reptiles is going to be really difficult I imagine. But am I proud that science has not yet proven or disproved these animated flour products? No, pride is not what I feel. In fact, how I actually feel taps into my feeling about this huge reservoir of what I do not know. As they say, the more we know the more we know we don't know. 


Adherents to science should not be proud of what they do not know or what they have decided to not study and particularly should not be proud about those things that fall into both categories of not knowing and not caring to know.


But instead, by the words used I get this feeling that people who claim to be atheists are actually proud and think the everyone should think like they do about this particular area of study.


In fact I am concerned that this odd take on science is actually hiding the anger mentioned earlier. Them claiming they are actually apathetic (or even agnostic) is just dangerous self denial. Dangerous because it employs a framework that says if I don't agree with an idea I can just deny it exists. 


A good example of how this can lead to trouble is with those bundles of ideas we call people. For centuries, factions have tried to dehumanize, take away the rights, ignore and outright destroy inconvenient ideas and their embodiment. 


How do we know a person is sincere about accepting differences when they are attempting to take away the very existence of a person because they disagree with them so much and cannot even admit they are angry with them?


They wish for a utopia free from "primitive beliefs" but what a strong connection between Utopian societies and holocaust. Because man-made utopia is at war with true diversity. To the point of arrogantly denying, without proof or disproof, various persons, regardless of their strength or gentle nature simply because they are inconvenient.