Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Thoughts of A Thinking Atheist

As a committed, open atheist for more than a decade, I have been asked, probed and questioned about my beliefs, or a distinct lack of.

In a society that is numerically dominated by religions, the voice of any atheist can be drowned out in a sea of prejudice and fear, and the idea of stepping out into the great unknown (Or abyss, if you are unfortunate enough to belong to a family inundated with religious fundies) with no divine protection (imagined or otherwise), can become a really scary reality.

While I cannot speak for every atheist, I will attempt, in this post, to perhaps elucidate some of my thoughts and world views, and to take this opportunity to dispel some of the misconceptions which our theist counterparts may have been harboring.

1. Religion is not a great moral guide for human behavior.

In many of my posts, a discerning reader will realize that I am a fervent skeptic against the idea of moral absolutes and its religious adherents.

If one is to follow the laws of the ancients, one would be quite appalled at some of the punishments that are meted out to perpetuators of crimes, real or imagined.

The Old Testaments, for example, advocates death to gays, stoning to death for women who are unfortunate enough to be caught or framed for adulterous affairs. If you are unfortunate enough to work on the odd Sabbath, you risk the chance of being put to death by the moral police. Even disobedient children are not spared from such barbaric legations.

Religious fundamentalists who argue for a literal interpretation of the bible will quite often attempt to snake their way out of such embarrassing verses in the context of the Old Testament (OT), using the "Jesus" pass: Since Jesus' role was essentially that of a sin-ridding messiah, such barbaric OT rules naturally do not apply in the New Testament (NT) age.

This type of argument, however, cannot explain away the fundamentalist's insistence in obeying biblical scriptures in its entirety: You either obey the bible literally from page one to the last, or you simply pick the ones that suit current moral trends and secular laws. Using this argument, I will surmise that one can easily dismiss the entire concept of religious absolutes and scriptural moral codes, borne out of an archaic, Jewry-inspired age that have neither bearing nor reverence to a modern, secular-humanist leaning age of the 21st century.

2. Atheists don't believe in God because they don't believe in pink unicorns.

Many Christian apologists would argue for the existence of God in what I dub "An argument from Silence". The argument goes that since atheists cannot prove the non-existence of God, we cannot be 100% certain that God does not exist.

This kind of arguments, shallow as they are, can easily be refuted, and one need not go further than Bertrand Russell's splendid metaphor, which he dubbed "The Celestial Teapot":

"If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is an intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time."

Flying Spaghetti Monster

Invisible Pink Unicorns

Ever since the invention of the cool teapot, unproven invalids such as Invisible Pink Unicorns and the Flying Spaghetti Monster (Dubbed lovingly as the FSM) have been added into a collection of atheist-inspired "deities".

The moral of the story is this: We cannot accord any validity to an invented phenomenon on the sole pretext of unfalsifiability. One could argue that even if that was the case, some theists would argue that the "majority factor" can somehow tips the balance of fact vs fiction over to the theist's favor.

Unfortunately, the basic tenets of truth lies in the existence of proof, not democracy. Just because the majority thinks that a rabbit is male, doesn't make it one. Neither does the Flat-Earther's insistence of a flat earth: You can't make a pancake of Earth just because you believe it is so.

3. Atheists Are Reasonable People, for Fuck's Sake!

The truth is, I find it strange in a way, that I have to explain this, but on second thoughts, I feel that our religious brethren may feel "threatened" by the presence of atheists, because very little is known about people with minds that are not conditioned by religious brain-washing.

Atheists are not animals or demons in disguise. Despite all the hoohahs about "militant atheists" in the form of Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, atheists are, by their very non-religious nature, are adverse towards any form of religious violence.

Sure, atheists hate religion. As for myself, I commit blasphemy five times a day, scoff at holy ghosts, and generally have a very skeptical outlook on most religious concepts and institutions. As Christopher Hitchens puts it aptly with his book title:"Why God is Not Great-How Religion Poisons Everything", every religion-inspired effort, from forming charities to schools to hospitals, become centres for religious propagation rather than for the good of the Common People.

Even so, most atheists respect the individual's right to his or her own beliefs: You can believe that the Earth is flat, or that Earth was created in 6 days, but please don't smuggle your bullshit into government schools and teach that kind of ludicrous nonsense as Science.

You have the right not to use contraception and deny yourself an abortion, but kindly refrain from denying this right to others who need them desperately.

If religious hospitals refuse to dispense morning after-pills to rape victims or vitro-fertilization for lesbian couples, kindly close down these hospitals or let secular ones take over. After all, as the mantra goes, "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen".

Ye Christians can build as many churches as ye wants, but please stop clamouring for tax-free statuses. Churches are money-making enterprises, charity institutions, and as such do not deserve tax-free statuses or even tax-free grants. Build your churches, extol the virtues of your stupid deities, but for Jesus' sake, pay your damn taxes!!!

4. Atheists tend to be non-violent.

Sure, atheists can, and tend to be more vocal these days. We throw vitriol in the direction of fundy nutjobs who simply bushwack their way into the upper echelons of politics and mess with our personal freedoms. We berate religions for spreading lies and misconceptions that will have a detrimental effort on society. But we can't be caught with strapped bombs and blowing up innocent men, women and children in subways and buses. Neither do we insist on stoning people for the slightest misdemeanour.

5. Life Is Better Without the Belief In Deities

Driving the Ass Can Sometimes Be a Pain In The.....Erm, You Know Where.........

This sounds a little awkward for theists who are used to, and buy into the concept of driving the donkey with a carrot and a stick: In order to drive a donkey forward in one singular direction, you need to lure the donkey forward with a dangling carrot in its sights. The donkey, conned by the illusion that the carrot is probably just a nose away from its mouth, drives incessantly forward, only for the carrot to remain unreachable. The stick acts as an insurance to the slavemaster, in the event the donkey somehow smartens up and realizes that he has been dubbed into one hell of a masterful conjob.

That, in sum, is the gist of religion: In order to maintain the throngs of faithful worshippers within its fold, it needs a carrot in the form of an utopian heaven, and a invented masochistic whip known as hell, to maintain this rather slippery rope.

The idea that a person somehow finds himself in an eternity of BBQ simply on the pretext that he is somehow unfortunate enough to believe in the wrong deity, or even worst, the right deity but alas, a religion that somehow does not belong to a god-approved (Sounds a bit like the ISO standard, don't you think???)"real" denominational religious sect, smacks of bigotry and utter injustice. If a deity of such vindictiveness exists, one would be better off worshipping the image of Hitler than grovelling to this tyrant and terrible despot.

For a person to do good simply on the pretext of doing what is morally right under secular law and sheer humanism is definitely far better than doing what a religion teaches and enforces in an "arse while" manner.

Fear and rewards are poor substitutes for doing the right thing. Like acts of charity, one must always have a moral compass that acts separately from imagined threats of punishment and rewards.


Anonymous said...

So... somewhere in the universe there has to be a china tea cup so massive that it cannot be distinguished from it and the universe.

tina said...

I wish I could express myself like you do. Atheist bloggers are my voice.

BEAST said...


I try my best. Thank you for your support.