So there are all the terms I’ve learned of late. One of which is “Anti-theist”. I know it sounds the same as atheist but there is a big difference. An atheist is someone who lacks a belief in a god or gods. That’s it. That’s the only defining characteristic that ties the atheist “movement” together. We can and often do disagree on nearly every other aspect of life. On the other hand, an anti-theist is someone who actively opposes religion. Typically they are atheists but I suppose that wouldn’t necessarily be a prerequisite. Although that would be a bit odd, someone who believes in a god but actively opposes it.
There’s a Youtuber who has brought up the question “What beneficial aspects of religion can’t be replaced by secular means?” and it made me think. I began to think about my time as a Christian. What would that look like? There is only one thing that comes to mind about this that I still struggle with and that’s community. When you believe in a religion and say “I go to such and such church” it has a built-in sense of belonging. A group of people all united with certain foundations and tenants. You all have many things in common just by default. Now being outside of that circle I find it hard to find a group of people to spend time with. I’m sure that’s in big part to being an introvert and having a young family (having neither the time nor the inclination to venture outside of my house). I have found some community online and it’s a good starting place, but there is something about meeting with people regularly, face to face that is missing. I am working with Graceful Atheist and a few others to see what something like this might look like but we are still in the infancy stage.
On the opposite end of that, however, there is one thing that really is something that the secular world has done for me that religion never did. I struggle with depression off and on and while I was a believer I always felt there was something wrong with me. God was supposed to have this great plan for me and I was to be living life abundantly. But that never seems to click. Of course, I could fake it on Sunday mornings and pretty much with every interaction I had but deep down I felt as though I was doing something wrong. Why wasn’t I always just happy? Why didn’t I feel the “joy” all the time? Was I not praying right? Was I not reading my Bible enough? So now stacked on top of all the depression I had an overwhelming sense of guilt.
So am I an anti-theist? I don’t know. I haven’t thought it all the way through. I do know that I think religion does do more harm than good for our current society. Trying to pass laws in order to make everyone follow their moral guide, having their myths taught as scientific fact, being content with “god did it” as the answer to deep questions seems to hold us back as a society. But I do get it, I was there not too long ago. Maybe time will make me one?
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.
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.
Definition: A fallacious argument that concludes a proposition to be true because many or all people believe it; it alleges that “if many believe so, it is so”.
Have you ever had your parents say “If everyone else jumped off a bridge would you?” I’m sure that drove you nuts as a kid. I know I did for me. There is some truth to this as well. There is a bit of truth to this however. Just because a lot of people believe something to be true doesn’t make it true. First example I can think of is the shape of the earth. Up until about the time of the ancient Greeks people believed the earth was flat (sorry it was well established that the world was spherical when Columbus sailed). Everyone believed the earth to be a flat plane (because that’s how it appears to us from our perspective), that didn’t change the fact that the world was round.
This fallacy is easy to fall into because we want to belong. We want to be like other people so we can fit in. We’ll sometimes even believe things we know are wrong just so we don’t segregate ourselves from people. I know for me I did this for a long while. This is known as cognitive dissonance. It’s hard to break away from this mindset but in order to believe true things (which has become a new goal of mine) we need to watch for these types of mentalities. Logic and reason are some of the tools that I now use to decipher if what I’m believing is true or not.
How do you explain how the universe is so perfect for life?
This is another question I see a lot. There is this notion that the universe is set perfectly in motion and in no other way could life have formed. Some limit this just to life on earth but the same thoughts apply. Firstly the universe is definitely not perfectly tailored for life. In fact the opposite seems true. Most of the universe is space. And it’s huge. “Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.”Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. And there is a lot of nothing in there. Seriously there is of area where nothing can survive. If the universe were made to suit life there would be way more places for us to live. Even in our solar system with it’s 8 planets (sorry Pluto) only one of them has the ability to support human life.
Even looking a just earth there are problems with it being tailored for human life. Three quarters of the planet is covered in water. And then there are places like the poles which have such cold temperatures very little can survive there. Also vasts deserts of nothingness. There a very few places where humans can flourish without bringing in outside resources to sustain them. In fact we wage wars and kill each other for those resources, as they are limited and will eventually run out.
I do grant that there are certainly other places that may harbor life outside our solar system, they are relatively small in number. Yes we are finding more and more possible planets in what seems like everyday however, when you think about the scale of the universe this number is minuscule. In short, no I don’t see a universe being perfect for life. I see a universe where gravity and electromagnetic force control how and where things end up.
Side note: Sorry the late post. Time has gotten away from me this week after the holiday. I hope to get back to regular posts shortly!