Sorry about the strange title – a explanation will follow.
As my more vocal Atheist friends haven’t neglected to make absolutely clear to me, the Atheist Alliance International 2010 Copenhagen Convention is this week-end. I’m a big fan of James Randi and would really like to see him. But I’m not going, because I’m not an atheist. And I’m frankly beginning to be a bit tired with them – paying a small fortune for a week-end with a couple of hundred of them, isn’t my idea of fun.
But lets first take a look at what Atheist means (Wikipedia):
Atheism, in a broad sense, is the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities. Most inclusively, atheism is simply the absence of belief that any deities exist. Atheism is contrasted with theism which in its most general form is the belief that at least one deity exists.
So Atheism, is the negated form of “the belief that at least one deity exists”. I don’t think I want to define my self with a negative, if I can avoid it. The only place for such a definition is when, there’s a conflict with the positive form. But as I don’t have a problem with theists, I don’t need to define my self against them.
I’m not a non-believer, because I’m not defining myself against believers. I’m not defining myself along them either. Other peoples believe in or against this or that, is irrelevant for my definition of me.
It’s not that I don’t have negative definitions. It’s just as easy to define what you don’t like, as to define what you like. I’m fairly anti-stupidity. I’m anti-fanaticism. I don’t care for people, who try to push their believes on me. But that goes for anybody who’s trying to “sell” something…
I don’t reject the believe in the existences of deities. Rejecting something is a energy consuming activity. And as I firmly believe that other peoples believes are their personal business, I don’t waste my time on having an opinion on it.
And there are so many other things, I want to spend my time on.
And just to be absolutely clear: I do reject the evils done in the name of deities and their prophets. Just like I reject the evils done in the name of nationalism, racism, expansionism, stupidity and fanboyism. I like good things done in the name of deities and their prophets. Just like I like good things done in the name of altruism, love, loyalty, dedication and if-that-ever-happens pure stupidity.
I reject evil, no matter what the excuse is.
I accept good, no matter what the reason is.
But what about all the evil or just stupid things done in the name of deities and their prophets?
I think I already answered that above, but allow me to clarify:
There’s two levels to that.
1. On one level it’s about power structures and how to enforce them. Waving the “God told me to rule you all” flag, is just an easy way to gain control. Just like democracy, socialism or the fear of terrorism. I do agree that “God ordained” power, seems to extraordinarily easy to build and sustain, but it’s competitors, Capitalism, Western Democracy and Chinese Commercial Communism (just to name some of the biggest), even if they are in their infancies, aren’t doing to bad either. Power structures can be good or bad, or both or anything in between, but the older and bigger it is, the more it tends towards being mainly about sustaining it self. I do have a problem with this, but the excuse for the power structure is irrelevant.
2. On the personal level, it’s about finding something that helps you make sense of the world. If you find something that helps you do good and see the world in a positive light; Good for you. If you find something that, helps you do evil and be bad; Not so good. On a personal level, I’ve seen more bad done in the name of Socialism, than religions faith.
The other question
People like Sam Harries and Richard Dawkins argues that faith it self is bad (or outright evil), as it leads to and allow irrational thinking. The question seems to be; if you can base your life philosophy on the belief in an unprovable deity, what from stopping you from extending this to all decisions, even the ones that need a more scientific approach?
I think the question is misleading and that they have it up-side-down. I don’t think anybody is capable of rational thinking all the time. Everybody makes faith based decisions. More or less all the time, on all kinds of levels. Every moral or ethic decision you’ve ever made, has been faith based. Using a deity to rationalize those decisions, is just as valid as not. It doesn’t really matter.
What matters is that nobody really does that, where it matters and where there’s a rational alternative. Nobody decides the strength of a break wire in a car, based on the teaching of the bible or “God told me to” – not without having some major brain malfunction that would have manifested it self badly anyway, with or without faith in a deity. Not even the most devoted believer will accept a car manufacture using “God told me to use the weak (and cheap) wire” as an excuse, after they have crashed their car in to a wall. If, on the other hand, your life philosophy help you cope with the meaninglessness of an accident or loss, that’s all good. If it locks you in a pattern of grief and sorrow that’s bad. With or without a deity.
The other side of that argument is that having faith in a deity (and a religious system), will stop you from seeking new knowledge and “rationalize” yourself. Again, I don’t think that belief in a deity is needed for that. I’ve seen plenty of non-believers who prefer ignorance in most matters. It’s just a basic human condition – you seek the knowledge that confirms your beliefs and ignore things that work against it. Doesn’t matter if the belief has a deity in it or not.
The really bad decisions are made based on the needs of power structures, pure stupidity and greed (or combinations). I would rather fight that, then broadly attack everybody who believes in a deity.