Tuesday, May 15, 2012

WHY I AM NOT AN ATHEIST

I realize that this is a double negative, though grammatically acceptable.  It’s like saying, “Why I don’t not believe in God.”  But as some atheists are extremely dogmatic about their beliefs and can’t seem to understand why others don’t agree with them, I felt I needed to say a few words.  It’s sort of like telling the Jehovah’s Witnesses who knock on my door, why I am not a Jehovah’s Witness.

First of all, there are many Atheists whom I admire.  Their writings and questionings are thought-provoking and I often find myself in agreement with many of their observations.

One area where the Christian and the Atheist are in agreement is on the fact that there is such a thing as truth and that that truth is capable of being known.  Both groups are, for the most part, not relativists or subjectivists.  Of course, we differ extremely on what is truth and what is not.

The greatest defense of objectivity and universal reason I’ve ever read is the book, The Last Word, by Thomas Nagel, who freely professes to be an Atheist.  I recommend it to any thinking person:  Atheist, Christian or anyone in between.  I could also list other Atheists whose writings I devour and probably a few others whom I suspect of being Atheists, but who do not find it necessary to make the claim.

However, there is a number of those who some refer to as, among other things, “The New Atheists.”  These guys clearly are not only Atheists but Anti-Theists.  They are not content to simply disbelieve in God or a god.  They aggressively campaign against this God in whom they don’t believe (maybe we could call them “evangelistic Atheists” – Uni).  I wouldn’t say that they have an agenda, but they definitely have a belief system to which they are committed.

I’ve tried to ascertain the main points of that belief system.  I realize that I am generalizing and that not all Atheists hold to all of these points, and I may not be accurately describing these points.  I also realize that I’ve undoubtedly missed quite a few and that a number may appear to be self-contradictory.
·        All beliefs are based on “science.”  By this is meant current scientific theories and hypotheses.  And at the same time the data used to formulate these beliefs must be empirical – capable of being observed.
·        There is no God.  Though one would assume this should come first, the belief is supposedly based on the fact that one cannot “prove” God empirically.
·        Atheists do not “believe” or have “faith.”  They simply “know” certain matters to be true.  Some are quite touchy about this matter.
·        The Bible (of course) is not to be believed.  It is merely a set of myths.  Any evidence of its factuality is not to be heeded.  (Of course, if one doesn’t believe in God, why should he believe a book that claims to be inspired by Him?)  Even any evidence of the New Testament’s first century dating is to be rejected.
·        The doctrines of Christianity were invented in the fourth century by Constantine.  This is clearly documented in the book and movie, “The DaVinci Code,” which is to be taken by faith.
·        All or most of the evils in this world are caused by religion.
·        Religious people’s beliefs are due to indoctrination or cultural predispositions.  Atheists do not have this problem.

There are undoubtedly many more doctrines in their A-theological system, but these are the main ones I’ve observed.

I believe it take great faith to be an Atheist; to find purpose in a purposeless universe; to find a moral system in an amoral universe …

I guess I just don’t have that kind of faith!

As Steve Martin’s song says, “Atheists Don’t Have No Songs.”

7 comments:

Bob R said...

It would seem to me before you can have an intelligent discussion about the existence or non existence of God one must first explain what one is pointing to when they use the word God. If you are suggesting that God is "a great mystery". OK I can get with that. On the other hand if God is an all powerful Santa Clause that is making a list, checking it twice etc. Don't think so.

Bill Ball said...

Bob:

It appears that you are posing a false dilemma: either God is "a great mystery" or some cartoonish character of man's design. Why does He have to be either?

The God I'm speaking of is the Creator of the universe who is also the Judge of all His creatures and who has revealed Himself through both nature and the Scripture.

If you understant Him as "a great mystery," I'd say that while your understanding is limited, you've made a large step in the right direction.

Canadian Atheist said...

Another interesting post, Bill.

“The New Atheists.” These guys clearly are not only Atheists but Anti-Theists.---> Yes, some are. I wrote an article on my blog that explains the difference between an anti-theist and an atheist.

All beliefs are based on “science.” By this is meant current scientific theories and hypotheses. And at the same time the data used to formulate these beliefs must be empirical – capable of being observed.---> Not really. Most atheists I've met value science because it's the best way we've discovered to observe the universe. However, Buddhism for example, is compatible with atheism. So is Humanism.

There is no God. Though one would assume this should come first, the belief is supposedly based on the fact that one cannot “prove” God empirically.--->More that there is no proof. I view Yahweh like I would Zeus.

Atheists do not “believe” or have “faith.” They simply “know” certain matters to be true. Some are quite touchy about this matter.---> The opposite is true. We base our views (many of us) on reality, observation and evidence. Honestly, if we just wanted to pretend to 'know' things, we would be theists.

The Bible (of course) is not to be believed. It is merely a set of myths. Any evidence of its factuality is not to be heeded. ---> Incorrect. There are things in the Bible that we can use or think is true. If evidence is given, we would believe Jesus was the son of God as well. There are good parts to the Bible. Same with most (or all) religions.

The doctrines of Christianity were invented in the fourth century by Constantine.--->No. They were cobbled together by Constantine.He didn't write them.

All or most of the evils in this world are caused by religion.---> I wouldn't say most but a good bunch of them are. There are plenty of other things that either contribute to evil or are the cause of it such as Nationalism, greed, tribalism etc.

Religious people’s beliefs are due to indoctrination or cultural predispositions. Atheists do not have this problem.---> No. We just point out your religious affiliation is usually an accident of birth. We then feel sorry that theists can't seem to grasp the implications of that. Most atheists started out being religious and it was a long, painstaking journey of self-discovery based on evidence that made them an atheist.

I believe it take great faith to be an Atheist; to find purpose in a purposeless universe; to find a moral system in an amoral universe …--->Not really. If you really want to discuss this point, I'm open to doing so. The idea that atheists lives are bleak and purposeless is not true in the slightest.

Bill Ball said...

Thanks CA. I'm glad that in many ways you don't fit the stereotype. I'll keep praying for you. :^)

Sherry said...

Christians proselytize as do other religions. I believe the attack mode of "the new athiests" is in response to this. How many times can you be told you're evil and/or going to hell before you respond? Dad, you don't do that but the media sure loves to focus on the so-called christians that do. Maybe the media is also over-emphasizing these athiests.
I can understand how the athiest might feel when surrounded by people who openly disucss their beliefs -- it's probably like being a politically liberal Christian in Oklahoma -- when I'm with liberals they often don't have my beliefs, when I'm with people who share my faith they rarely have my politics. And it feels like crap to be so outnumbered. And it's hard to speak your mind when you suspect many will act hatefully toward you. A suspicion born from experience.

Science is true but it is not complete; we are constantly making new discoveries. I have no reason to doubt science and I think so-called christians who do must not be very sure of their faith.
However, I personally don't see how I could expect to measure something that exists outside time & space & matter with instruments that only measure time or space or matter. I know that some think that's a cop-out. But really, would he BE God if he could be measured by us?
There is no scientific proof that a god exists. There is no scientific proof that one does not. There is scientific proof of the complexity of the universe & there are "laws of physics". I look at that and see the work of a complex lawgiver, not happenstance. Believing in a creator does not mean I doubt evolution - it exists around us - nor does it mean I haven't observed and analyzed.

I was definitely indoctrinated - by you! I was also taught to think, analyze, investigate - by you! I was even taught what other religions believe in sunday school! I am not a non-thinking person who automatically accepts what I'm told (like I have to tell you that LOL)
You weren't raised as a Christian but you were raised in a society whose predominant religion was christianity. But does that mean you can't be trusted to be smart enough to make a decision about which religion is true, if any?
If so, then we should look to people who have become Christians tho born in other countries & raised with other religious views as being comparable to the athiest who struggled to make his/her decision while living surrounded by people of religion. After all, in some places, the people who turn to Christ risk losing homes, families, and even lives so they definitely have to think long and hard before making the decision. Maybe since they weren't brainwashed, their opinion will be accepted as a thinking decision.

WOW! went to write a couple of comments & wrote a thesis instead. sorry

Canadian Atheist said...

Hi Sherry. I enjoy your posts very much. I just wanted to clarify a few things from my perspective. I hope you don't mind.

Christians proselytize as do other religions. I believe the attack mode of "the new athiests" is in response to this.--->Partly you're correct. The biggest part of the 'new atheist' movement you're missing is 911, where we saw how 'faith' can ultimately lead. Quite a few of them have said that 911 was a turning point for them.

I love your thoughts on science by the way.

However, I personally don't see how I could expect to measure something that exists outside time & space & matter with instruments that only measure time or space or matter. I know that some think that's a cop-out. But really, would he BE God if he could be measured by us?---> Indeed. Believing in God isn't really the issue to most atheists. It's how those beliefs manifest into action. For example, suicide bombing, burning people at the stake, demonization of atheists has heathens or infidels, gay rights etc. The list is very large indeed.

There is no scientific proof that a god exists. There is no scientific proof that one does not. There is scientific proof of the complexity of the universe & there are "laws of physics".---> I hear this from Christians all the time. The problem is that your God does supposedly interact with the world and left a book that supposedly tells them how to act. If all believers were to admit they have a belief, no evidence and don't have a bloody clue about what such an entity would want, there would be no issue. To pretend that we know what such an entity wants or would want is the height of arrogance IMO.

If so, then we should look to people who have become Christians tho born in other countries & raised with other religious views as being comparable to the athiest who struggled to make his/her decision while living surrounded by people of religion. ---> The difference is that all religions like other religions more than they like atheists. You're surrounded by people who give credence and genuflect to a belief system that lacks evidence and you're constantly told how that belief deserves respect.

WOW! went to write a couple of comments & wrote a thesis instead. sorry---> I think we're all enriched by your posts, Sherry.

Sherry said...

thanks CA for responding to my comment. and for the compliments on my posts.

I am sorry to admit that I had not realized the 9/11 connection. I knew christians had used it to spread fear of Islam but it just didn't click in my head that it would cause non-believers to be suspicious of all religions, especially those with fundamentalist ideology. DOH!

I should have seen that because, quite frankly, some of the extremists in the christian right are downright scary to me. I do NOT want to be associated with them in any way and I fear what they might do in the name of religion as much as any other extremist, whether political or religious.