if you act like a dumbshit, they’ll treat you as an equal

mosesScience does not remove the terror of the gods

Religion exists for a lot of reasons.  It exists as a way to control people.  It exists as a way to profit off them.  It exists as a way to explain things we don’t understand.  Mostly it exists because the night is long and dark and no one wants to be alone.

When I was younger I was more rigid than I am now and I was a vocal atheist.  But I grew up.  I came to realize that I really have no idea whether there is a god or not.  Oh, I have my suspicions.  If there is a god I doubt  it looks much like the Christian version of god, or really any human conception of “god”.  I doubt that a being capable of creating the entire universe involves itself in the outcome of Earth-based high school sporting events.  I doubt that geological and biological evidence for any number of scientific theories was planted to confuse us or test us.    I think it likely if they exist the gods care neither about the harm done in their names nor the good.  I don’t believe that religious people are stupid and occasionally I admire them for their faith and the strength it gives them.  I don’t believe they lie or have drank the koolaid and I’m willing to credit them for considering their beliefs as thoroughly as I’ve considered mine.

I  consider faith to be an intensely personal thing.   Religion is not inherently bad and it does me no harm whatsoever if my neighbors believe in the Christian god, or the Jewish one, or the Muslim one, or the multiple gods of Hinduism or the ancient Greeks, or the “interesting”  god of Mormonism (the correct choice, btw), or JHVH-1, or the FSM, or the Great Spirit, or Rael, or no god at all.    To the extent their faith brings them peace and contentment, I wish them all felicity.  The only time religion ever really bothers me is when it acts on its insistence that nonbelievers must be saved and that all other beliefs are wrong.  Organized religion irritates the hell out of me most of the time.   God, on the other hand, pretty much leaves me alone.

I’ve recently been asked by several Facebook friends to join something called “Calling all ATHEISTS-Let’s see how many Atheists are on Facebook.”   This is apparently a response to a similar site asking Christians to front up and represent.   So I checked it out.  And you know, I’m really kind of  disappointed.   I expect better (maturity maybe?) from people claiming to be the rational side of the discussion.  But this site is basically a bunch of apparent juveniles making fun of other people’s beliefs.   Yeah I know…who in their right mind takes FB seriously?  But what I see at this site, and what I encounter more and more elsewhere, is the same kind of rigid nonthinking and gratuitous mudslinging that passes for debate these days.  I blame Richard Dawkins for this.

Dogma is dogma.  Believing there is no god is no different than believing there is one.  One is just as much a matter of faith as the other.  In some respects, theists are more intellectually honest in their assertions; they at least recognize that their belief is pinned on faith and they do not require “proof”.  Atheists, on the other hand, have a distressing tendency to base their arguments on “science”.  This is entirely acceptable when they are challenging specific faith-based claims.   It is fairly easy to demonstrate that the Earth is not in fact less than 10,000 years old, that animals and humans and every other living thing on earth is a product of ongoing evolutionary processes, that the earth is not flat and revolves around the sun, the Bible cannot literally be true, and Jesus did not ride on the back of a velociraptor (Ok, I made that last one  up).  It is also logical to assume based on the history of the development of human knowledge that while there are things we may not know today it is likely that we will understand them in the future.   Most things we see in the  natural world are explained perfectly adequately without resorting to magic and it is not unreasonable to believe that will continue to be the case.  The (current) failings of science do not constitute evidence for the existence of god.

However, refuting ludicrous religious claims, even a lot of them one right after the other, is not the same thing as disproving the existence of god.  That various facets of the universe seem to function perfectly well without a maker or a director cannot be taken as proof  that there isn’t one.  The existence of a deity is basically not a scientific question.  This is not because it “requires faith”.  It is because it is impossible to phrase it in such a way that you can address it scientifically.    We cannot even agree on what “god” is.  Dawkins for example spends a good chunk of his book setting up a god he can easily destroy.   The rigor of his arguments is not in question but the validity of his starting point is.   Dawkins is a zoologist by training and an evolutionary biologist by avocation.  Evolutionary biology happens to be an extremely well-supported avenue of intellectual inquiry.  So Dawkins sets up the anti-evolutionary biology god and knocks it down.  It’s philosophy as the cheap shot.  Anyone can play.  Don’t misunderstand me.  Dawkins is a very smart man and I agree with him almost entirely (well, The Selfish Gene was a little over the top), but he is gleefully nasty to his critics and to people of faith.   Militant atheism is as ugly as militant faith and making fun of people is just childish.   Even worse, making fun and calling name distracts from the message.  I don’t like organized religion because as often as not it’s an embarrassment to the species and I’m beginning to feel the same way about organized atheism.

Do I think it likely there is a god?  Not really.   But honestly?  I don’t know.  And neither do you.  Believe whatever you want to believe.  Just don’t be a dick about it, m’kay?

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~ by gun street girl on February 8, 2010.

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