July 19, 2011
Oh, sorry, were you not? No? Just me?
Oh well, here’s my take on the matter anyway.
I’m sure I’ll offend someone in the course of this post, so rest assured this is not my intention, and the opinions expressed herein are exactly that: my opinions. Although, this is hardly a topic in which we can consider one person more credible than another, considering it pertains to the meta-physical nature of reality.
Now, to the matter at hand, I am strictly speaking an Atheist. I’m not sure what specific brand I could give to my atheism, but I’m certainly neither an agnostic atheist nor a militant atheist, I suppose the closest is a scientific atheist. I don’t think there’s a god, and I keep a close eye on scientific developments to keep appraised of what’s going on and what the leading ideas and such are. If indeed evidence can be found to present without reasonable doubt that an uber-being does exist, I’ll certainly start researching what they’d like for Christmas and such (Not to say they’re undoubtably the Christian god, it’s sort of an areligious holiday around these parts).
Now the first thing a lot of religious people say in competition to that is to bring up all sorts of “wonders” and “miracles” that happen in the world. For example, life on Earth. Now I’m not going to argue Evolution versus Creationism here, but that’s a really dumb way to go about things. I mean, okay we’ve only found one planetoid with life, but we’ve only checked a small fraction of the visible universe, saying we’re the only ones therefore we’re specially created would be like saying “I can’t find milk in my neighbour’s fridge, therefore our milk is the sign of Deus Lactea!”. And then there’s the quality of that life, everything is just so poorly engineered and put together, for every good thing they can do there’s a dozen downsides. And as for miracles? Well, show me a miracle and I’ll show you a poorly-educated observer, that’s pretty much the standard practise with “miracles”.
And the next thing that often gets asked of an atheist declaring themselves as such in a religious atmosphere is “How can we go on living without knowing there’s a purpose to it?” Well, poppy-cock. The way I see it is that nihilism actually has something right in its notions (so certainly I wouldn’t call myself a Nihilist). Nihilism proposes that there is no meaning, no value, and no purpose to anything in the universe. You have no purpose, your dog has no purpose, the firefighter down the street that saved twenty people last week has no purpose.
So how do I get by? Simple, with an ability human beings have had since apes first clutched a wayward stick. I give things meaning, value, and purpose. We do it every day without realising, I mean just look at the economy, we give paper and little bits of metal literal value, we have our jobs and our families and our goals in life to give us purpose, and these are all inventions of humankind.
From my perspective then, there is only so much value, meaning, and purpose in the world as human beings (and any other intelligent life we mayhappen across) give it. The sun is valuable, the Earth is valuable, our jobs give us purpose, and our lives give us meaning.
How do I understand religion then? Well…I’m not sure I’d say we’re good friends. I can understand it from an emotional support sort of angle, and there’s certainly one or two religions I actually quite enjoy for their literature and their aesthetics (Shinto in particular). But then there are all the horror stories you hear, like Catholic priests in abuse scandals, Scientologists draining bank accounts, terrorists shouting the name of Allah and all that. Whilst they may not be irrevocably tied to the religion involved, people often abuse religious ideas, which on the whole tend to be fairly wholesome (give or take…), to whatever ends they want.
Religion is just a concept, an old habit if you will, and one that I think we are finally growing out of. It doesn’t care what you think, or what you believe, only the people that commit to it do. But consider history for a moment. Not a century ago, we believed that Christian Genesis was the truth, that nature was balanced by the unseen and little-understood hand of The Lord, but now we know that it is anything but, a truth that Darwin unfortunately struggled famously with after its discovery. As little as five centuries ago, we thought that our prominence in the universe was made clear by the moon and the sun orbiting around us, but now we know that is not the case and that, rather than sitting at the head of the table, we are on the same dance floor in an ever-flowing waltz across the stars, a notion that saw its discoverers and adherents brutalised and imprisoned for something we now accept as easily as “1 + 1 = 2″.
We are, faster and faster, coming to the conclusion that the universe itself is far more magnificent than humanity has ever given it credit for, and all composed according to (relative to some human legal writings) simple laws and statutes, with no hand of the divine, but a great touch of it instead. We don’t have all the answers, we likely won’t for a very long time, but as a species we are gradually dawning upon the notion that religion, as a whole, is unnecessary and outdated.
Right now, I, a creature that has taken millennia to appear and whose predecessors have survived countless adversities and catastrophes, am sitting in a structure that has taken centuries to blueprint and months to build as well as survived two wars that spanned the globe, and typing on lettered keys made of a material previously unheard of on planet Earth, to send electrical impulses to a tiny little blot of copper and plastic upon my lap. All to inform you, dear reader, of my ideas and notions of this bubble of space within the universe, which is filled with such astonishing and beautiful constructions all of which had no intelligent creator.
If you take a moment to actually look at what’s going on, its easy to find that a divine being looking over and managing it all is rather unnecessary for it to actually seem glorious and amazing. We are standing in the most glorious masterpiece life has ever seen, and it has never once had an artist beyond what we ourselves paint upon its surface.