A great discussion on morality after leaving religion. Again if you have any interest in joining us on one of these discussion please let me or Graceful Atheist know! We’d love to have you and really want this to be something more than just he and I talking about our blog posts 🙂
Ok sorry for the click baity title but it is what it is. Just a thought I came across the other day. There are two very different statements I hear from theists. The first is “I believe in god” and the second being “There is a god”. While on the surface they may sound like they are saying the same thing but the are very different indeed. One is a statement of belief, and the other is a claim to knowledge. I know that sounds arbitrary but the distinction is important.
Lets start with the first statement “I believe in god.” The key words here are “I believe.” This doesn’t make a statement of fact. Things one believe doesn’t make them necessarily true. For instance, believing that a four-leaf clover brings you luck, they don’t but you might feel better about things. That’s what believing there is a god does, gives you warm fuzzies. And that’s fine, I’m not here to tell you what to believe. I however have come to look to verifiable, falsifiable evidence (more on that in another post) for me to believe things. One believing in something can be a true statement, it doesn’t require outside evidence to be true. Your personal experience is all that is needed. The thing you are believing in however, would nee evidence in order to convince others of it’s validity.
Now the latter statement: “There is a god.” This isn’t a belief, it’s a claim to truth. This is akin to saying rocks are hard, or there’s a computer on my lap. This is something you need to prove and back up with more than “I feel that…” statements. Another piece of baggage that comes along with this is. Now that you have this claim to a god you’re obliged to do as it says. So when holy books from the bronze age tell you to stone homosexuals you can use this to fuel you’re own biases. It emboldens you to make sure laws are passed to further your gods agenda without regard for anyone else. A claim to truth needs to have evidence to back it up. Something that can be tested, verified, reviewed, and falsified. The last one is a hang up for a lot of people. Why does something need to be falsifiable to be considered evidence? There’s a long answer and a short answer and the short answer is to be able to rule out any other options.
It’s been said that beliefs inform decisions and that’s very important. I myself like to say my goal is to believe as man true things as possible and as few false things as possible (Thanks Matt Dillahunty). But to take that statement further, the closer those beliefs come to being certain truth the more damage they can do if they are wrong. I know I haven’t really delved outside my personal realm of experience before but as I’ve been going down this journey I see more and more the harm that religion can impose upon the world. I plan to do more posts like this where I start to look forward instead of staring at the past.
I’ve felt off all day. Very self reflective. I’ve felt almost like I was viewing my day in the third person. I’ve been thinking a lot about me lately. I know that might sound strange but it’s not something I used to do, at all. I used to deflect these types of moods by asking god for direction, or what should I be praying about, or ask for peace. It was odd not doing that and actually thinking about who I am and what I’m doing here. Am I going to be doing the exact same thing 10 years from now? Do I want to be? Before it was easier beacuse you know “god has a plan for your life.” I didn’t have to think about planning. I didn’t have to think about what the future held because god was in control.
I supposed that lead to a bit less stress in life. If god had this master plan then I didn’t have to worry about the future. If I got good things god was looking out for me. If I didn’t get what I wanted god knew best. It was simpler. It was easier. Even as I sit here writing this and seeing all the good things right around the corner I have a feeling of weight on my sholders. I’m responsible for my life. I’m responsible for what happens next. Perhaps I need to pick up the slack a bit. Perhaps I need to start living my life instead of letting it just happen to me. That brings on a new level of apprehention. I’m not the only one depending on me anymore. I have my family to worry about. I can’t just up and quit my job tomorrow and figure it out. I need to be able to provide for them (Not that my wife couldn’t but we’re not in that place now).
I want to be a writer full time someday. However I find my self spending little to no time developing that skill. I have so many day to day commitments that it doesn’t become a prioirty. It doesn’t cross my mind to schedule in time to do that. And the moments where I do have that free time to do it, I’m exhausted. All I want to do is sleep.
Sorry this became somewhat of a pity party but I thought I’d share and get these thoughts out into the ether. How do you manage your day to day and still find time for your passion? How do you juggle kids, a job, a wife? I don’t have a social life so this should be easier.
With my renewed passion for god I decided to put myself back to all in for Jesus. Living back with my parents I began to take the church classes over again. I involved myself into ministry again. I also began dating my high school girl friend again (for the third time). This time however, I somehow convinced her to marry me. We moved in together shortly after that. My parents were ecstatic.
Moving in together was not really something brand new to either of us. We had both either lived with our parents or roommates, neither of had ever lived alone so we were used to sharing spaces. However, the apartment we lived in was small, ill-maintained, but super cheap. That last part was the selling point :-). As we started our new co-habitation situation, I started dragging her to church. Eventually I got her involved with the musical ministry (she’s an amazing vocalist). We were able to server together on the team, I’d play guitar and she’d sing backup vocals. It was something we could do together and enjoy (or commiserate on depending on the day).
Things at the point seemed to be going well. We were happy, making enough money to set some aside for the wedding but then I had life changing injury. I had fallen at work and sprained my back. This incapacitated me for a number of weeks and wasn’t able to work my wonderful retail job. I was on track for management but my career path had come to an abrupt stop. I began to panic. Workers compensation only paid so much and we had bills to pay. With no degree and no other skills to speak of I was at a complete loss for what to do. I quickly learned the pills that eased the physical pain also eased the mental pain. It was something that I struggled with for a long time after.
Another great talk with @gracefulatheist
Please if you’d like to join us in one of these talk just let us know!
The first fall
So as I was in college I wanted to assert my independence. I got a full time job. I eventually moved out of my parents house since I was then able to support myself. In doing all of this I eventually stopped going to church. I didn’t feel like going anymore so I just stopped. When my parents asked I would tell them I had to work weekends (which was true). I will say this though, even though I had given up on church I had not given up on “God”. I still believed very heavily in Christianity.
At a certain point I came to a crossroads. I found the stress of a full time job and full time school to be a bit too much for me. I had to make a decision. This would follow me for years (and to an extent still does). I left school. I felt that the classes weren’t the right fit for me. My job gave me enough satisfaction that I thought I would make a career out of it.
This was also about the time I moved in with a girl with whom I had been dating. I didn’t seem like a big deal. I needed a place to live, she wanted to move out of her parent’s house. I remember at that time I could pack all of my belongings into my Hyundai Accent and just go. Things went ok for a while but I ignored a lot of my financial issues. It all came to a head one day when the bank wanted to repo my car. I ended breaking up with that girl and moving back in with my dad. That was perhaps one of the most humbling experience in my life.
I lived there only a short time before the “you should come back to church with us”‘s started. I eventually relented. It seemed serendipitous that the sermon was on the parodical son. I remember at the end of the service we got into small groups of people to pray for each other. At the end my dad pulled me in for a moment and said “He still loves you.” I began sobbing. And thus began my journey back to Christianity.
Happy New Year!
As I step into the new year I feel as though I’ve perhaps kind of deviated from what this blog was supposed to be. I’m currently writing about my journey, questions for atheists, the bible, logical fallacies. This seems to be all over the place. The title of the blog is “Godless Journey” and it feels like I’m just pulling from all over the place. I think I may scale back a bit and concentrate on the journey portion of my story for the moment. I feel this will give me more consistent updates and focus. Once I’ve completed the past history I’ll begin to dive more into the other portions of the blog that I have been working on.
Also during this year I plan to start putting out video content. My question for you is which portion would you like to see done as a video response? I’ll have a poll up on my Twitter for you to vote on. By limiting this to only one area this will do a couple of things. Firstly it will help me get an idea of how to make videos (starting from scratch). Also it will keep me writing the other portions. I do love writing and would like to keep working on that as well.
Again, HAPPY NEW YEAR! Thanks for coming on this journey with me!
Argument from Authority
This is a fallacy that I was guilty of for many years. An appeal to authority is when you take the word of an authority figure as truth because they are an authority. For example; 9 out of 10 doctors prefer trident gum, so trident gum is the best. Can you spot the issue? The key issue here is doctor. There isn’t anything in there that states what kinds of doctors are. It doesn’t say anything about what they prefer it against (maybe it’s trident vs rusty nails). What you see here is that these doctors prefer trident. Because they are doctors it appears to add weight to the claim.
It’s also important to note as to what this fallacy is not. So if you have someone who is an authority in the field in which they are argument, they’re claims do carry more weight. Still, the most important part is that they show their work and how they arrived at whatever conclusion or claim they are qualifying as truth. People are fallible, and can misinterpret things. However, data doesn’t lie. If the work is shown and we can see the data we as a collective can point out possible problems in it. This is why there is a peer review system in the scientific community. I remember hating to have to show my work. It thought it was a pointless exercise that wasted time. If I can do this in my head why do I need to show that I know it? Now, I understand that showing my work displays my understanding in a way that can be verified.
As a christian I spent a lot of time allowing this fallacy to permeate my life. I took those who were older than me and more read on the subject at face value. I thought what they said was true because of their position. I didn’t bother to think on the matter any further. Essentially the Bible was true because they said so. This passage in the Bible means this because they said so. Looking back I really should have turned on the critical thinking.
I had a conversation the other day with a fellow on twitter coming off of one of Ken Ham’s tweets. There was a lot of back and forth and I attempted to understand his position. I did employ some Street Epistemology in the conversation but I think that was done in vain. I just didn’t want to boil over into a flame war. That doesn’t do anything to further any conversation. We somewhat ended the discussion with him asking if I was a naturalist. I hadn’t heard the term before so I looked it up. It essentially is the belief that there is nothing beyond the natural world and everything can be explained with natural process. I’m not a huge fan of labels (that is different than check boxes, I friggen love check boxes) but agreed with that assertion. He then sent me this article talking about some things that naturalism can’t account for. I will spend this post refuting it’s points.
The first point this article makes points out that is that if there is no other plane than the natural then our minds (I’m assuming he means consciousnesses) are nothing other than a result of natural processes. The implication being that we have no true “free will.” My question is, so what? We as a species are excellent input/output machines. We’re also excellent at pattern recognition (even when there isn’t one there). There are even denominations of Christianity that believe we have no free will (Calvinism to name one). The fact that we can look at our selves introspectively can be easily explained by evolution. Once we evolved to the point where we were no longer living from meal to meal our brains suddenly had all this free time. It was freed up to do things like existential thinking. I am looking to do some more research into the entire notion of free will and what possible implications there are to not having it.
Next up is the topic of morality. I sometimes wonder at the nature of “morality” or ethics. I did take a class in college on the subject of ethics and found it fascinating. One thing that I was never really convinced of was moral absolutes. There is the old antic-dote about that goes something like this: You are in 1940’s Germany and are hiding a Jewish family in your house. One day the SS shows up and asks you if you are harboring any Jews in your home. Do you tell a lie and save the family or do you tell the truth and not lie. It’s a pretty easy decision, you lie. Now if you adhere to a strict rule of moral absolutes where no “sin” is greater than another then you have a pickle here. You’d have to tell the truth and in turn an entire family dies. YOU made that choice and would have to live with that the rest of your days. That doesn’t seem very “moral” to me.
The final point the argument presented is that of meaning. Essentially that with out god our lives are nothing more than what we have here while we’re alive. There’s no higher purpose to our existence. I fail to see how a deity give our lives any deeper value than that of a life devoid of such a being. Our life meaning is different for everyone. We aren’t designed to worship anything. Our meaning is self-defined. The author points to an example of a child thinking their meaning is to play video games all day. OK, what’s the problem. If this kid can grow up and support himself on playing video games more power to him (there is some serious money in that industry). If not, they will have to do what we all do and find a job they can tolerate to support that which he finds fulfilling (video games). Granted there are exceptions to this the biggest being if you find your meaning by infringing on someone else’s life (such as murder, rape, and the like).
As I stated before I was pointed to this article from a Twitter user and promised I would give my rebuttal. I don’t believe that anything else other than the natural order of things is needed to explain us. We aren’t special. We are just another animal on this planet that happens to have a higher intellect. Our ability to self-reflect, make moral decisions, and find fulfillment can all be explained by our evolutionary history. I now had the difficult task of finding that twitter string and sharing this article with that user…whose name has completely escaped me.