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Atheism and me. - The Paranoid Android
...musings of a mechanically depressed robot...
Atheism and me.
I was never much of a fan of Ricky Gervias, but a recent WSJ blog entry attracted my attention, mostly because he wrote how I see things.

Of course, he couldn't help himself from being a bit smug. This is probably the reason why I don't like him much. In a message that appears to say "why can't believers and non-believers get along" he refers to believers as brainwashed, and science as the ultimate truth. If you really want to promote harmony between two parties, using loaded phrases is not the way to go.

Apart from that it was a well articulated piece about why atheists might be atheist, and specifically why Mr Gervais is... an article of opinion presented with a little humour. Unfortunately I didn't stop reading at the bottom of the article, continuing into the comments and there ended the articulation, sense, and all forms of decency.

Behind the safety of anonymous posting there was a lot of people belittling others beliefs and opinions, and much wrangling of word usage versus meaning.

If pushed into labelling my beliefs, I call myself an atheist. I am pretty sure in my belief that there is no god. The "agnostic" label appears to me to be too indecisive... as if tomorrow there may be a chance I might change my beliefs. I am entirely sure that I would admit to being wrong if someone proved beyond reasonable doubt that there was a god... but this proof will mean I require no belief. This brings me to conclusion that I will never have faith; I will never "believe in god". I'll either know he exists... or I will believe he doesn't.

It was said many times in the comments that both atheism and science are articles of faith as much as Christianity. I disagree. I don't need faith to believe that god does not exist, just a lack of evidence to the contrary.

To borrow some words from Tim Minchin:
"Science adjusts it’s beliefs based on what’s observed
Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved."

The thing that really baked my noodle though was the repeated statement that atheists have no morals. Any notion I have about recognising right from wrong is actually an admittance that I actually do believe in a divine being, and any self labelled religious person who acts in such a way that they obviously don't know right from wrong is actually not religious at all, but an atheist.

You have to admire the propaganda machine that cooked that one up! All those people involved in the inquisition, they were not religious! No religious person would torture or kill someone. They were all atheists... which is ironic as that is what they were torturing and killing others for. The same goes for the Crusaders. Only an atheist would kill someone for not being a Christian. It's statements like these that almost gives Ricky a reason for the "brainwashed" comment. Of course, lumping every religious person in the same group as these obviously deluded commenters is no better than being one of these obviously deluded commenters!

The next best recurring theme from believers was "if you read this book/bible passage you'll change your mind."

No. - Just no!

The words in whichever book or passage referred to will have about as much effect on an atheist as "The Blind Watchmaker", or "The God Delusion" would have on a believer. Annoyance is probably one effect. Mind numbing rage is perhaps another.

I would love to be able to say that the atheist commenters were so much better... but for the most part their arguments were just as fallacious (but unhelpfully didn't fall into discrete themes). One thing that both "sides", and even Mr Gervias, got horribly wrong was that faith in a god and acceptance of science was mutually exclusive. Science has yet to prove the non-existence of god... and there is a persuasive argument that it never can.

The believers had a problem with the concept of a scientific theory (like the theory of evolution) saying if it's only a theory, then there's a good chance it's wrong.
The atheists has a problem separating the belief in god from organised religion (especially Christianity)
Both had a problem keeping it civil.

There was an interesting idea though:
What if the entire population of the world had its collective memory wiped... and all theological texts were removed, but all scientific texts allowed to remain, would religions be reinvented?

The ultimate question has to be... why do I get sucked into these things. I have just spent the last 4 hours reading other peoples drivel (and the last 10 minutes writing about it!)


Current Mood: irritated irritated
Current Music: Toto - Prophecy Theme

12 comments or Leave a comment
seattleforge From: seattleforge Date: December 22nd, 2010 11:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's like you read my mind.
paranoidandroid From: paranoidandroid Date: December 23rd, 2010 09:44 am (UTC) (Link)
Does that mean we are the voice of reason, or just that we're both warped in the same way?
seattleforge From: seattleforge Date: December 23rd, 2010 03:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
I have to say that I'm always surprised when I find out that someone I know is a follower of religion. It's absolutely shocking to me that in this day and age people follow these ancient superstitions. But I'm as tired of athiests being nasty to believers as I am believers aghast that I'm an atheist.
So, I'm not sure I've answered your question.
paranoidandroid From: paranoidandroid Date: December 24th, 2010 05:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
Nope - you may have confirmed you have similar views to mine... but that doesn't confirm or deny if that's the voice of reason.
seattleforge From: seattleforge Date: December 24th, 2010 06:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm always the voice of reason.. and so is everyone else. ;-)
zoethe From: zoethe Date: December 23rd, 2010 03:08 am (UTC) (Link)
Interestingly, Gervais's movie "The Invention of Lying" is really about how being able to lie leads to the invention of god.
paranoidandroid From: paranoidandroid Date: December 23rd, 2010 09:45 am (UTC) (Link)
I might have to watch that... even though I do find him infuriatingly smug.
zoethe From: zoethe Date: December 23rd, 2010 01:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's a better movie than I expected. And I agree about his smugness. He may not believe in god, but he has an evangelical smugness about losing a couple stone that is headsmack-worthy.
chocolate_jen From: chocolate_jen Date: December 23rd, 2010 06:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
His smugness certainly did not start with the weight loss, he's been arrogant for as long as he's been famous! The XFM podcasts are great proof. Still enjoyable to listen to though.

I'm frankly relieved to be able to read an entry like this which hasn't angered me to the core. I agree with you fully. This whole religion vs science thing is ridiculous, as is the stubbornness of both parties involved. I rarely have a problem with people who believe in a God, but religious people, in general, irk me deeply when they start actually saying what their beliefs are. I'm in medical school and a surprisingly large proportion of my intelligent, scientifically minded colleagues are religious. Some even go as far as to reject evolution, even when the definitive proof is in the bodies of the patients in front of them every day, even causing one of the most common abdominal surgical emergencies.

But what can you do?
They're also so massively closed-down about the whole thing. Not closed-minded, but just stubborn. It's literally like talking to a brick wall. I gave up having the same debate over and over again when every time it involved me stating scientific fact, and the opposing part quoting bible passages. I realised we're not even having the same argument. We're speaking two different languages.
And I gave up. But it doesn't stop their drivel from getting on my nerves. And atheists can be just as bad and very closed-minded themselves, I'll eagerly agree.

Thanks for giving me a little bit of faith back in humanity.
chocolate_jen From: chocolate_jen Date: December 24th, 2010 02:13 am (UTC) (Link)

paranoidandroid From: paranoidandroid Date: December 24th, 2010 05:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
Now xkcd - he's a god! ;)
From: faith__eternal Date: December 25th, 2010 07:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love discussions like these:)

I hope you're having a great Christmas.
12 comments or Leave a comment