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Atheism, philosophy

Atheism and Me

Today is a day for atheists to stand up and stand out, and so it seems fitting for me to tell you a little bit about myself.  I’m not going to tell you a lot of personal details because I am in the unfortunate position of relying on the business of a great many theists for my livelihood, and I must remain a pen name in the business of atheism and rationality.

Instead of a personal story, I want to tell you my philosophy and how it developed intellectually.  A lot of my blog posts are about atheism, but I don’t consider myself an atheist first.  In fact, my atheism is a side effect of my philosophy, not a foundation.  I did grow up as an indoctrinated child, which led to me being a devoted Christian for far too many years, so I am a reconverted atheist.  (Of course, all babies are born atheist.  I’ve returned to my natural state.)  However, the first big step in my life was not leaving theism.  It was committing myself to the principles of logic and science.

Hopefully, all of my readers have browsed through the Articles page and found my two part essay on science and knowledge.  Obviously, it was written from the perspective of one who has already opted for atheism, but it’s important to note that without trust in science as the only source of reliable knowledge, it becomes impossible to disqualify God as a legitimate possibility.

When I began to question Christianity, I did so because of the many obvious contradictions, both in the Bible itself, and in the dogma I was being taught.  After I took college courses in comparative religion, ethics, symbolic logic, and philosophy, it became apparent to me that a religion cannot be self-validating.  Since there are at least two religions that claim to be self validating, and claim to be the only true religion, one of them must be wrong, which means that self validation cannot be legitimate.

With this in mind, I determined to prove one religion correct if it could be done.  I spent several years performing intricate mental gymnastic maneuvers to try to find a legitimate line of reason that led to religion — any religion.  My criteria were simple.  My proof would necessarily have to be outside of the religion itself.  If religion was true, it would have to stand up to reason, for without reason, we literally cannot know anything about anything.

During this time, I was reading all the science and philosophy I could get my hands on, but I was also avoiding one glaring ommission in my commitment to reason.  I was holding all things up to the scientific method except for my proof of religion.  The scientific method demands that we begin with the facts and follow them wherever they may lead.  I was not doing this.  Instead, I was beginning with a conclusion, and trying desperately to make the facts fit in any way they could fit.  I was doing the opposite of science.

Once I was fully confronted with this reality, I knew the implications immediately.  I had been quite aware that the facts didn’t seem to give me any way to prove religion true, but in my gut, I felt sure that there had to be a way to do it, so I kept manipulating the facts in different ways.  After I saw my own hypocricy, I literally sighed in resignation and swore to myself that I would do science in the correct order with regard to religion.  I would begin with the burden of proof on the claimant.  If there is a god, and if any religion is true, it falls upon the person claiming it as truth to provide the evidence.  Without sufficient evidence, the only rational position is disbelief.

So, in effect, my atheism was a biproduct of adopting the scientific method.  I simply began with the correct position — disbelief until evidence demonstrates existence.  I didn’t actually intend to stay atheist.  I still had the idea that by starting from the correct position, I might yet prove that God exists.

As the years passed, it became more and more obvious that instead of always maintaining a position on the fence, I was moving farther and farther away from any possibility of religious belief.  Every path of inquiry I began ended right back at the beginning — no evidence, no belief.  Soon, it became apparent that the very concept of a god itself defies everything we know about science and the universe.  Not only was there no evidence of a god, but there was a mountain of evidence against one.

You can see now that I am not an atheist first and a science geek second.  No, my atheism is just a side effect.  I examined evolution and found it to be supported by a brobdingnagian pool of evidence, and so I firmly believe in evolution.  I examined neurology, psychology, and the principles of natural selection, and reached the conclusion that all the evidence points to humans as nothing more and nothing less than a completely natural part of life on earth, with no special place in the universe.  When I examined the concept of God, I found that a scientific approach rendered it essentially impossible.  Rationalism led to athiesm, not the other way around.

You may think it’s rather odd that on a day on which atheists are being encouraged to be proud of their atheism that I should be downplaying its importance, but there’s a very good point to be made by doing so.  Atheism is not the foundation for anything.  It’s not a philosophy.  It’s not a code of conduct.  It really isn’t much of anything at all.  The thought process that leads one to atheism isn’t actually very difficult.  Any ten year old child can think it through.  Sure, it’s difficult to overcome the emotional and social pull of theism, and it’s quite difficult to overcome brainwashing, but these are problems of the human condition, not problems of logic.

So today, on atheist awareness day, I’m standing up and standing out as a rational human being who had no choice but to admit the obvious.  There is no god.  It’s the only reasonable conclusion.

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Discussion

6 thoughts on “Atheism and Me

  1. Hey Hamby,
    (Oh no, not you again!)

    Your hypostasis is flawed if you don’t mind me saying. You are assuming that the existence God can be proven by the scientific method. You are using a system that was designed to deal with the material world and you are trying to apply those same principles and methods to try to discover the truth about the immaterial world, for God is Spirit and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and in truth.

    I hope you will consider what I am about to say for just one moment. Do you remember the two trees in the Garden of Eden? Yes, of course you do. One, the tree of the life and the other, the tree of death. God gave Adam the free choice to eat from either tree. He warned him of the consequences but He did not forbid Him from eating from the wrong tree.

    If God were absolutely provable by scientific means, then in reality you would no longer have an honest choice to choose or reject Him. You would be intellectually forced to conclude that He exists. God will never force Himself on you – including intellectually manipulating you. He will only accept you if you come of your own free will.

    Hamby, how do I know that you exist? I believe that you exist because you have taken the time to reveal yourself to me through this blog. The only way that I can know that you exist is if you choose to reveal yourself to me. If you choose to remain distant and unknowable, then I could never know you personally regardless of the number of scientific experiments I perform on you – because who you are – your personality – is INMATERAIL. You cannot subject your personality to tests that only deal with the material because the real you is not flesh and bone – it is spirit – just as God is Spirit.

    So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. [Gen 1:27]

    You are more than flesh and bone. You are spirit who resides in a physical body. Your physical body can be repeatedly observed by the scientific method but the real you can never be subjected to a system that only deals with the material world because the real you was created in the image of God. And because you are in God’s image He loves you and gave Himself for you.

    Ask yourself this question: Can science truly know who you are through scientific experimentation without your cooperation? If you are unknowable by the scientific method, how much more unknowable is God?

    Posted by Russ | March 20, 2009, 5:38 pm
  2. Russ, have you read my entries on science and knowledge? I’ll make a deal with you. You read them, and after doing so, refute my arguments in the section on religious claims. Once you’ve done that, I’ll address this post. Until then, it just looks like you don’t know enough about epistemology to be having this conversation. No offense.

    http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/2009/01/14/on-science-and-knowledge-part-i/
    http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/2009/01/15/on-science-and-knowledge-part-ii/

    Posted by hambydammit | March 20, 2009, 5:45 pm
  3. Can I coin the phrase “the Russ Rush” as a close cousin to the “Gish Gallop”?

    Posted by KaylaKaze | March 20, 2009, 7:07 pm
  4. BTW, that second link 404s. It should be 2009/01/15, not 14

    Posted by KaylaKaze | March 20, 2009, 7:08 pm
  5. Fixed Link. Thanks.

    Posted by hambydammit | March 20, 2009, 10:11 pm
  6. Steve wrote, “How are we ever going to improve things with the culture and lifestyles we are so entrenched in?”

    Why is it that so many questions are asked? and concerns shared? when the questions were answered and the concerns addressed some two thousand years ago?

    Why is it no one will take heed and listen?

    Simply, because that which it calls itself “religion” has had it’s way with the multitudes, and especially the educated, those who were taught that reading, memorizing and then passing a test on that which is in a book is the source of “knowledge” ;-(

    Sadly all that is “known” is but “the colored marks written on a dead tree” ;-(

    Such “head” knowledge is a prime reason that today, natural Creation(land, air, water, vegetation, creatures) is being destroyed, and that which is of The Spirit(Light, Truth, Love, Peace, Life, Hope, Grace, Mercy, Faith, etc.) is being perverted ;-(

    Sadder yet, those who “see” religion for what it is, yet allow religion to have it’s way with them ;-(

    The prime purpose of that which is called “religion” is to insure that “The Way of Truth will be evil spoken of” ;-( (2Peter2:2)

    Once again, some two thousand years past, the answers to what Truly matters were revealed”.

    “How are we ever going to improve things with the culture and lifestyles we are so entrenched in?”

    “Love not the world, neither the things in the world!” (1Jn2:15)
    And, “Whoever loves this world is the enemy of GOD!” (James4:4)
    For “The WHOLE world is under the control of the evil one!” (1Jn5:19)

    “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me(The Messiah) before it hated you.” (John15:18)

    And it was promised that “evil men and seducers would grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived”. (2Timothy3:13)

    The Messiah did not come to make this wicked, evil world a better place!

    So, for the “entrenched”, “The Call” was given and yet remains, “Come out of her, MY people!” (Revelations18:4)

    “Come Out” of this wicked, evil world and it’s systems of religion!

    “Improve things”? No! Simply, “Come Out” from among those who are destroying and perverting Creation! No longer be of those who believe they “know” what is best! Be of those who desire above all else, “Father(Creator), not my will, But THY Will Be Done!”

    I believe the “imag”ination of those reading this, and who despise “religion”, is
    quite active now, “imag”ining, “ah, this one’s just another catholic or christian, must be but another one of those “religious” hypocrites!”

    Or the religious ones reading this, even as they have their portion in the destruction and perversion of Creation, “imag”ining, “Who does he think he is?”, “Nobody’s perfect!”, and a favorite line of both the religious and irreligious, “You can’t judge me” ;-( When in Truth it is their own Creator given conscience that convicts them!

    Truth is, “Pure religion and undefiled before GOD The Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unspotted by the world.” (James1:27)

    Simply, all other “religion” is impure and defiled!

    Sadly, there are many who have allowed what is called “religion” to have it’s way with them, and so it is that many who “see” the destruction and perversion of Creation return to their “mother earth”, yet sadly never experience The Oneness that is in and of “Our Father”, HE WHO IS in Heaven ;-(

    Yet there is Hope!

    For Miracles do happen!

    Hope is there would be those who experience The Miracle that is receiving “a love of The Truth” for they will “see” The Light that is The Messiah, and they will take heed unto The Call of “Our Father” to “Come out of her, MY people!”

    They will no longer be of those who are destroying and perverting Creation.

    They will “see” that “A Simple and Spiritual Life is the only Life that will survive!”
    Forever…….

    Peace, in spite of the dis-ease(destruction and perversion) that is of this world and it’s systems of religion, for “the WHOLE world is under the control of the evil one” indeed and Truth…….

    Truth is never ending…….

    Posted by Francisco | March 22, 2009, 8:11 pm

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