I talk about atheism a lot in here. I don’t know why. I don’t see the point. Perhaps I’m challenging myself more than anyone else. Getting the thoughts and feelings about the subject out into some kind of tangible form even if it’s just words on a screen allows me to look at it and objectively judge my own brain. Is this what I’m really thinking and feeling? Can I challenge this? What does it mean to the child of my youth that promised his god he’d never leave him? What does this mean to the old bastard I’ve become and the few sunsets I have before me? The following sentence started as a tweet, but I immediately realized I had to turn it into a blog post, because it’s not enough.
I wrote those words after looking at a “photo” posted to Erika Lacey‘s instagram page, but she probably got the “image” from somewhere else, and that person got it from Ricky Gervais, and his thoughts on the topic stem from all of his life experiences. There’s no original thought under the sun, really. Everything’s been done before. So why do I still bat this ball about like a kitten? I guess for the same reason the Earth still revolves around the sun. It’s what I do.
As a person, I see something very wrong with believing in gods we can’t prove, just as I see something wrong with believing in anything we can’t prove, and just as I see something wrong with belief in general, cuz it allows you to place faith in things you can’t prove, which is dangerous.
I don’t think there is a god, and I think belief in one does harm people. It keeps the one believing from looking for actual answers to the world’s questions, because they feel they already have all the answers, even though they are wrong answers. If it appears that belief in a god helps you, that’s just a temporary thing.
It harms the people around the believer, because they are forced to make a choice. Do I care about my friend more than I care about reality? Am I going to go along with what my friend says about reality, rather than listen to reality itself? This can lead to a chain reaction of decisions that are just as dangerous as driving alone in a car at night with all the lights off and your eyes closed. Just believe if you hit the gas pedal, you’ll make it home safe and sound. What harm could that cause?
Unproved belief may not infringe on others’ rights if you keep your belief to yourself, but you’re not going to do that. Eventually you will say or do things based on your beliefs that will infringe on the rights of other people. It happens all the time. Sometimes we don’t even realize it’s happening.
I would not be interested in taking away anyone’s right to believe in a god, but I also reserve the right to call anyone who does out on their willful ignorance. In light of modern technology, advancement in multiple sciences, and the discoveries we have made in recent centuries regarding multiple disciplines of science, there is no rational reason to believe the Abrahamic god is even remotely a possibility now, and more vague concepts of the god myth are equally hollow and empty, until and unless someone can present evidence proving one exists.
This universe is so immense, the idea that a god would make it just to place humanity in its center and have a personal vested interest in the minutiae of our everyday existence is the epitome of arrogance.
I would rather you didn’t kill people who believe in a different god, or don’t believe in your god at all. I would rather you not stone someone to death because their rule book talks of sex in any way you don’t like. An omnipotent, omniscient, benevolent being is not responsible for every hair on your head and every star in the sky, and even if he were, he wouldn’t care about whether or not you work on the sabbath, or eat fish on Friday. A god would have better things to do with his spacetime than judge and punish you for living your life as you saw fit.
I’m an atheist against my will. I wanted to believe. However, religion failed to live up to its claims. It failed to prove what it claimed was real, and yet expected me to believe blindly anyway. Until and unless religion can prove its outrageous claims, I have no reason to believe, and neither do you.
As an atheist, I can’t really make a judgment call on whether or not believing in a god is “wrong” because atheism isn’t about judgment calls. It’s a doubt. It’s not about ethics. There’s other philosophies and disciplines that address that. So many people, Gervais and Lacey included, seem to insist on much more under the atheism banner than for which there’s room.
I do observe there’s a lot wrong with believing in a god (or anything really) that you can’t objectively and scientifically prove. When we examine history, the vast majority of wars are caused by people believing in things regardless of whether or not they were true. Every major disaster to a major metropolitan city is caused because people opted to live somewhere they thought was safe and they were wrong. Coast lines are a prime target for hurricanes. Fault lines mean an earthquake is inevitable, but we believe we are safe anyway, and maybe 99% of the time we are but there’s that 1% we just don’t believe in, that we pretend will never happen to us, and maybe we’ll get lucky, but that doesn’t mean our belief was right.
Even if your belief is right, if your reasons behind believing them are wrong, that can ill-inform your future decisions. At best you made a lucky guess, but because you had no evidence informing your belief, you had no evidence backing up any actions you make while harboring those unproved beliefs.
What if I believed gravity worked not because of how science explained it, but I believed there were invisible creatures which we can’t see or feel but they cling to our ankles and hold us to the Earth. There are invisible creatures assigned to everything and they are the force we call gravity. These gravity people are sentient and you can talk to them, and if you’re very nice to them, they will help you improve your aim when you throw things. They will make things lighter for you and heavier for your opponents. What if I went about my day to day life believing this is how gravity really works? Maybe I never vocalize this to anyone else, but it’s a private belief I harbor. Maybe you’d never notice, or maybe you’d notice when it looks like I’m praying to objects and you ask me and I tell you oh no I don’t talk to objects. That’s silly. I talk to the gravity people.
Maybe I could go about my life like this and never hurt a fly. In fact maybe I have to be really nice and cordial to everyone I meet cuz I know the gravity people are watching me and they will treat me better if I treat other people better. But what if I start believing those gravity people don’t like anyone who stubs their toe or drops something in a clumsy manner? What if I start treating some people differently based on how I perceive them to treat gravity people? And why would I believe all this? Well, isn’t it obvious? Gravity works, right? So there must be gravity people, holding everything down. You may find that absurd, but your unproved belief system is not based on anything more substantial. It’s just an hypothesis that can’t be proved or disproved.
It’s wrong to believe in the unproved. Sometimes it can be downright dangerous. It can lead to sociopathic or psychopathic behavior, that is rationalized to be acceptable based on religious dogma. That’s not atheism informing my stance here. That’s observation.
Some people refer to this opinion as “anti-theism” but that’s just being lazy. And I’m lazy too. I don’t know what should go here and it differs depending on the situation. Is it skepticism? Is it humanism? Is it rational thought? Can even the scientific method come into play? Are there ways we could test to see if believing in a god without evidence is beneficial to mankind or a detriment? There’s a host of other things I could name here that might actually be more proper, but sometimes even I use anti-theism instead, cuz I’m lazy. We’re all lazy.
Maybe someday I’ll be vindicated, and we’ll find a way to see all the little gravity people, and everyone will know they are real. However, until that day comes, it would be pointedly absurd for me to pretend they exist on the off chance that they actually do. If you are going to believe in an invisible friend whom you can’t sense in any tangible way, but you feel in your heart and think inside your brain must be guiding you and listening to you, where does it stop? If you don’t have to prove its existence, you don’t have to defend yourself when you say he says or does something. You just feel like he wants you to kill a hundred people with a homemade bomb or a large vehicle you’ve been told to steal. Why can’t you believe your god wants you to kill people, if you can believe he’s real without proof? What’s stopping you? Morality? Your invisible god friend made morality, right? So if you feel someone deserves it, wouldn’t your god want you to do something?
Where does it end?
I have witnessed fellow atheists talk about atheism in an almost spiritual way, and they talk at length about how they can still feel a sense of spiritualism in spite of their lack of faith in the traditional god concept. Not only is this not atheism, but I question whether or not one can call themselves an atheist, if they believe in an after life, or in the human soul. However, atheism doesn’t have a stance on how it is abused by people. It’s a doubt in a certain claim. Maybe people will continue to try and turn atheism into some kind of religion, but even if they succeed, they do it without evidence. They use atheism incorrectly, just like someone holding an artichoke to their head and pretending it’s a cellphone. Atheism won’t come out of this looking stupid, but people who keep insisting on it being more than just a lack of faith will come out looking stupid. And I wanna be there when they have egg on their face.