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.
I agree with you, Thomas, and am happy to see the general negative judgement of religions challenged. I know you have a lot of different points than this that you want to share in the above, but it made me think about, how I many, many times have heard religions being blamed for all bad in the world.
My belief is that dualism is inseparable from the matter of the human world as we know it. Being fallible, judging and performing good and bad deeds is a human condition connected to the human ego, and doesn’t make sense when talking about a deity. My personal experience and belief is that there’s a reality beyond human matter, and that duality is revoked or non- existing in this dimension.
Humans are matter and are thereby constantly challenged by the lower condensed frequencies we live in….doing bad is an option and to some an attraction like doing good things luckily is the same to some humans too. The choice is ours and human though, and therefore the consequences of the choice can’t be blamed on deities/deity.
I have always felt that “playing” the atheist ballgame is playing the wrong ballgame altogether. As you suggest, it is a fundamentally negative and, consequently, defensive position. As a non-theist to the core, I am not happy at all.
If I _must_ define my own position on these matters, in traditional, but positive, terms, I may settle on “prognosticism”: I must always base my moral system on my own feelings, my own experiences and my own conclusions. When I pass moral judgment — on myself and my fellow humans alike — it _must_ be rooted in my own being. I can not delegate responsibility for my actions — or lack of action — to some external authority, be that holy scripture, an ideology or some arbitrary political leader.
In essence, my faith must be my own … as in “earned”, not “possessed”. When faced with the difficult questions of the human condition, I must take my own stand. Merely falling into line is not enough.
Interestingly, this position does not, per se, exclude traditional, theistic faith. Indeed, most — if not all — religions entails some sort of confirmation of belief, usually taking place when the subject is supposedly old enough to make an informed decision. And most religious thinkers will argue that this confirmation is a lot more significant than the ritual in itself, with all the trappings and traditions.
In a wider perspective, this position, this “prognosticism”, is well known by another name. It is, for most intents and purposes, the Humanism of the European Renaissance, the longest lasting and widest reaching challenge to theistic — and other — dogma that humanity has managed so far.
So, to put it short: Even if I mostly reach the same conclusions, I am not an atheist, I am a humanist. I am positively, definitely human.
Kristine; I think one of the reasons religion is so often blamed for the evils of this world, is that it’s all to often used as an excuse for evil. But that’s just what it is. An excuse. It’s not even a halfway good one. Any excuse, that allow people to displace responsibility for their actions, is very suspect, and should be taken with a huge grain of salt. As Jesper says, delegating responsibility to an external authority, just isn’t a serious option.
Jesper; I enjoyed reading that. Interesting angle. Thanks.
Atheist or not – it’s just a word, but James Randi will show up in Planetariet this evening – if you hurry you might be able to catch him!