Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Atheism

ἄθεος



Upon being asked the question of  "Why are you an atheist?" I find that there are too many reasons and yet only one reason...

I crave the truth. 

This, however, is not quite to the point for those who ask. When asked by a theist, who finds the very idea of godlessness so alien that growing a third eye seems like a mundane everyday activity, this could never make sense. The "truth" to theists, words of scripture, is in direct contradiction with scientific and objective truth, but they believe the words of scripture are the truth, so actual objective truth seems false. More so it must be false, or the purposes they have ingrained into their existences become invalid, and by association, so does their existence. A theist cannot accept or grasp this explanation in the same way a bachelor cannot be married. To understand this explanation would mean to be atheist.

The only way to answer then, is to challenge, and this becomes an endless torrent of logic, and facts, and displayed doctrine contradictions and logical failings, and so on. Some theist attempt to push back with the anger of an annoyed child who has his hands over his ears and ranting maddening gibberish in hopes to avoid absorbing even a word of truth. Others, however, try to challenge back with pseudoscience, not realizing that for them to truly understand the scientific stances on the supernatural, then they could not be theists. Not understanding that science, the study of testable explanation of the natural world, is a direct contradiction to the supernatural and, by extension, to their arguments.



In a not-so-tiny nutshell, if it can exist [in nature], then no matter how phenomenal the display or how absurd and mystical the event or action may seem, it must be natural, and therefore can be understood by science. Another way of looking at it: if god is real, then god is natural, measurable, and would leave evidence to his existence. There is no evidence, however, that pins anything to god that could not be pinned to the flying spaghetti monster or fairies. There are things science does not know, yes, but scientists are not making random speculations, claiming them as facts, and demanding the rest of the scientific community to accept these speculations as fact without receiving any evidence to support the claims. With as much reason that is used by religious texts and authors, I can make unfalsifiable claims that the universe was created by witch-craft performed on a giant thimble by a magical turtle. It's complete nonsense, but hey, the turtle lives outside of nature and time(whatever that means), and as such you can never prove me wrong(except that I said he lives outside nature and time-the argument many make for their own religions). 

But many theist, do not behave as such (use pseudoscience or gibberish). They reply with logic, and they express genuine curiosity. They have a desire for knowledge, and are more thankful for information than they are hurt for losing arguments. They understand healthy arguments, and are willing to change stances of subjects when the evidence contradicts the previous stance. Most theist like this are raised theist. They are indoctrinated by their parents and communities that such nonsense is the truth. But their practicality eventually expels this nonsense. It is because of theist like this that atheists do not give up the argument. We are an ever-growing society of ex-theists. We know there are some who will see logic and understand they had it wrong because so many of us were those people. 

So the answer to the original question, "Why are you an atheist?", is book-worthy long, because some people require more examples of logic than others. 

I think a better question, or at least one that gets a more specific answer, is "Why did you become an atheist, if you were a theist?". I think it is a better question because the answer can start were many theists are. They can follow from a familiar place and see the path you took out. 

I would like to answer this. 

To start out, I will share some backstory: I was raised Christian. No real denomination, just told to believe in god, and Jesus, and that saying "goddamn" was bad. Pretty much raised in the typical protestant Christian family that hardly ever went to church. I thought the devil was real, and angels, and all sorts of things unrelated because, if all of this is real, then so could magical realms and other what-nots. 

As I grew into my teen years, I became extremely interested in spirituality and philosophy. I started thinking more about god and the bible. In a predictable response, I started reading the bible as well as started taking a bible study class in high school. After my parents divorce, I moved out with my dad and eventually talked him into going to church every Sunday. I was really into it, but I was also into philosophy and practical thinking. As was my dad. So often our nights were spent in casual debates about all sorts of things, from morality to astronomy to time. When on the topic of religion, I started noticing inconsistencies in the arguments and the bible, or at least some analyzing part of my brain was. It was like coming home and noticing something was missing, but not knowing what it was exactly. Despite all this, I eventually got baptized through the Presbyterian church we were attending, and everything seemed fine. 

Two days later, it all hit me. I was finally able to articulate and calculate the contradictions. This is when I stopped believing in the biblical god...

I used to wonder why god would make people. For what purpose would a being that could do anything make people for? How does that lend to our own purpose?

I learned he was omniscient. This mixed with the biblical claims that "people had free will and could commit sin" did not sit well. How could god make something bound with so many limitations, and with a perfect understanding its future, claim there was free will? If someone desired and "chose" to be an unrepentant murderer, god would have known when making that person, and likewise he would have known how to make the same person without these desires to be a murderer, but instead makes them that way, again fully understanding they would eventually go to hell, and when the person behaves as expected, god would actually send the person to hell. Again, a person was made with the intent to go to hell.  This is labelled by many as predestination. The bible is littered with it: Romans, Peter, Ephesians, John, Timothy, Acts, James, Titus, Colossians, and more. This all contradicted the areas dedicated to free will and sin and accountability, not to mention the "made in gods image" parts.

Many Christians shrug this off because they do not believe in the literal words of the bible, or what is practiced as Calvinism. They believe it is up to their personal interpretations. These Christians, should you ever meet them, have not read the bible, or lack the capacity to comprehend it...

"Know this first of all, that there is no prophecy of scripture that is a matter of personal interpretation, for no prophecy ever came through human will; but rather human beings moved by the holy Spirit spoke under the influence of God." (2 Peter 20-21 NAB)


With this, if there is any direct contradiction, it cannot be attributed to interpretation errors. "But...the text has been altered many times to be read in many languages." Surely some error must have been made(unless, of course, god would not allow that). This leaves room to say maybe there were changes made in parts one doesn't agree with, but with what logical steps has such an individual used to determine that the unlikable parts were altered while the parts such a person agrees with were not? Further, if there is any contradiction what logical assessments are used to determine which parts are accurate and which are not? Also, if the argument is that: "it is just something we cannot comprehend", then it is gibberish. Again, if this is the case, what logical assessments can be used to determine which parts gibberish and which parts are not? 


So with the understanding that god was claimed to be an omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, infinitely merciful, infinitely just, cruel, benevolent, and jealous being, I stopped believing in Christianity. 


I didn't become an atheist right away, however. At first, I became an agnostic with the belief that if there was a god then it was not any god in text. It could not be fathomed by my brain. This was a clinging want for me, rather than any logical development. I was used to the idea that I had a soul and I truly wanted an eternity of existence(which now seems silly and selfish). 


Eventually I came upon the hard truth that I was just evolving an idea given to me to suit my wants. It was through long arguments and efforts to find some reason and evidence for a soul, that I finally became atheist. Every subjective feeling that I can experience that produces the idea that I could have a soul (some supernatural existence) could be pinpointed and explained through medical and neuro sciences. They were natural, normal feelings that depended greatly on my physical awareness. When my body stops, there is no continued feelings, no continued personality and memories, because all this relies on the stipulation that my brain is alive.


This was a hard realization. I was admitting to myself that I was not a part of some universal goal. That I had nothing to do with the purpose of the universe. That there was no purpose of the universe. That purpose wasn't really important outside the human realm. I was admitting that afterlife is the same as before life. That there is an end. It was an extremely scary experience at first: letting go of all the "purposes" I was raised to believe in. 


Eventually, the "scary" passes, and, with the realization that this is the only life I may have, everything takes on an air of preciousness. The world, and the life on it, became infinitely more important. It is no longer an ugly step on my way up to glory. It is everything. Purpose is rediscovered in the form of enjoyment, and the spreading of happiness and health. For these ends we advance our knowledge and desire for truth. Our real goal is to live harmoniously and happily. If you have a fall-back, a heaven to go to, why should you care for what you leave behind? How could harmony through grudging servitude ever stand up to harmony achieved through the desire for harmony?


I am a scientist at heart, and soon to be in title, and matters of the truth will always hold my greatest attention. For this reason, I find the topic of theism so entrancing because I witness it as a campaign against truth. A campaign set in motion by people who wish for a speculation to be the truth rather than looking at what is actually the truth. People who refuse to gaze at the evidences and knowledge freely given to them.

I am an atheist (a level 7 on the Dawkins scale), and I could almost leave it at that, but I find religion harmful. Harmful to minds, societies, and lives. So I continue to hold the title. I continue to use logic in an attempt to convert people away from religion and religious harm. I do this with the hope that one day everyone will hunger for the truth as I do, and maybe the people in the future who are like me won't have to call themselves atheist, but rather they will call themselves normal.


Thank you,

Joshua



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