24 September 2008

Just a Little Thought (please?) (step 2.)

2. Came to realize that rational inquiry could restore us to sanity.

I can hear it now... "Are you saying I'm insane?" No, just that you may hold ideas that I think are insane. There is a large segment of the population that thinks I'm crazy for not believing in a higher power, I'm simply returning the favor.

Almost every major theology promises its followers life after death, yet still loved ones gather to mourn. Why all the sadness if the funeral's guest of honor is "in a better place," "no longer suffering," or "watching over us from above?" Because most people, even if religious, realize in the rational part of their mind that death is the end.

It is frightening. Death is the worst thing that can happen to you. Convincing yourself you can survive it may be comforting, but reality is not here to make us feel good. (I'll go into more detail on how atheism has helped me deal with death in a later post.)

There is a loud segment of religious fundamentalists and phony scientists trying to convince the masses that the entire universe is 6-10,000 years old. They claim that dinosaurs and humans lived at the same time and that the Grand Canyon was caused by the biblical flood. Anyone who has graduated 8th grade knows the dinosaurs died out long before humans arrived on the planet and that the Grand Canyon is the product 6 million years of erosion.

Yet more than half of Americans believe this "creationism" nonsense is valid science. Perhaps the dwindling science education in the US is to partially to blame. The massive propaganda machine from the creationist (re-branded "Intelligent Design" or ID) movement and their high profile lawsuits certainly play a part. I'm guessing most haven't given it much thought. A cursory look at the claims and credentials of the ID supporters is enough for a rational person to dismiss them outright. For example, there are more legitimate scientists named Steve that accept (not believe in) evolution than there are total illegitimate scientists in support of ID.

Believing two contradictory things (i.e. "I'll be in a better place when I die" and "death terrifies me" or "the planet is 6,000 years old" and "the earth has been around for 4.5 billion years.") is know as cognitive dissonance and causes mental stress. Discarding one of the contradictions, or altering existing beliefs is the way to reduce this stress.

If you discard the irrational belief, you can reduce mental stress and restore a measure of sanity.

Think well.


13 September 2008

My warm welcome to the atheist blogosphere

We interrupt our regularly scheduled posting to pass out kudos.

Theist’s anonymous has been added to The Atheist Blogroll. You can see the blogroll in my sidebar. The Atheist Blogroll is a community building service provided by Mojoey at Deep Thoughts free of charge to atheist bloggers from around the world. I'm glad to be a part of this community of over 730 (and growing) atheist blogs.

If you would like to join, visit Mojoey at Deep Thoughts for more information. Thanks, Mojoey.

While I'm thanking people in the blogosphere, I want to send a nod to vjack of Atheist Revolution. Since I'm a brand new blogger, I've been seeking out advice from those more seasoned and have gotten good advice from vjack. In addition to his quality atheism related information, he has written an entire series on blogging advice. Thanks, vjack.

I may as well thank the entire community at the Richard Dawkins dot net forum for helping me add cohesion to my arguments.

Enough thanks for now. I'll stop lest this begin to sound like an award acceptance speech.

Next week, I'll move on to discussion of step two.


07 September 2008

Objective vs. Subjective Reality (step 1.)

1. We admitted belief without evidence was powerless - that our faith had become untenable.

In addressing the first of the twelve steps, I will be addressing two sensitive words often considered to be off- limits in polite company, “belief” and “faith.” Let’s cram those worms back into their can.

“You have no right to question my beliefs” some may protest. To that I respond: “If your beliefs mandate teaching myths in science class, obstruction of scientific and medical research, denying complete sex education to American schoolchildren and uneducated third world citizens, invasions into the privacy of the bedroom, vilifying those who believe differently, pillage of the planet’s natural resources (since the world is ending soon, anyway,) or any number of other policies that hurt society as a whole, then I have a responsibility to challenge your beliefs. If these beliefs cannot hold their own (which they can’t) in the marketplace of ideas, they must be discarded.”

So, here we go.

I believe that when I throw a ball into the air, it will come back down. Almost everyone on the planet, regardless of which deity they believe in, if any, believes the same thing. (I have not encountered anyone who does not “believe” in gravity, but they probably exist.) I believe this because %99.9 of the time I throw a ball in the air, it comes down. (The other %.01 the ball gets stuck on a high shelf, ceiling fan, or some such.) There is clear observational evidence, and the experiment has been performed millions of times with the same results. This is objective reality.

Many believe that they can feel the existence of their preferred deity “in their heart.” Dismissing the fact that the heart is merely a blood pumping muscle and that any such “feeling” comes from the brain, that is strictly a subjective claim. Some claim to feel “Yahweh” in their heart while others claim “Allah” and others feel nothing of the sort. This is an argument from personal experience that is entirely unverifiable by anyone else, or subjective reality.

This kind of personal experience, and circular reasoning,
i.e. “we know this sacred text is true because it says its true,” are common arguments for the validity of faith, however, neither can be counted as evidence.

“But, I simply have faith that this is true,” some will argue. I agree with Mark Twain, who wrote “faith is believing something you know ‘aint true.”

The only honest theistic position is to acknowledge that there is no good evidence, but that one simply believes, via faith, with no good reason. If this is good enough for you, then you probably won’t be convinced otherwise. After all, you can’t reason someone out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into in the first place.

If you are not OK with believing outlandish things for no good reason, come back next week and we’ll discuss rational inquiry.

Think well,