Ask an Atheist Day 2014.

17 04 2014

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Thanks for joining me on another Ask an Atheist day. I’ll admit that I’m saving this one pretty much til last minute. But I’m sure you don’t mind.

This year I have only received two questions. I plan to tackle them both in the following order.

1- Is it necessary to label yourself that you don’t believe in any kind of religion? Or would it be easier just saying no that’s not for me?

2- How will you deal with your son with religion/god/spirituality etc when the time comes? Will you allow him to explore other concepts that differ from yours?

As usual. Any further questions, please post below, or contact me with whichever method you have available. If you know me, you have facebook, twitter or email etc. If you don’t know me, you’re pretty much limited to commenting below.

So here we go for 2014. I’ll first start off with a side note. Completely unrelated. I recently celebrated my 1 billionth second anniversary on April 13th. It was a weird yet satisfying moment. I really used it to help appreciate the number itself. The number really is a mind boggling thing to comprehend, and yet in the scheme of the universe it’s such a small thing. 1 billion seconds is close to 32 years on earth, yet in the scale of the universe that’s just a tiny fraction of a blip. Anyways, now to the heart of the matter.

Is it necessary to label yourself that you don’t believe in any kind of religion? Or would it be easier just saying no that’s not for me?

This is actually a great question. I’m really surprised I haven’t had this one yet. There are two sides to this viewpoint that may or may not answer the question right off the bat. So I’ll list the two sides and then continue.

Side A from Sam Harris: “I think this whole conversation about the conflict between faith and reason, and religion and science, has been, and will continue to be, successfully marginalized under the banner of atheism,” he said. “So, let me make my somewhat seditious proposal explicit: We should not call ourselves ‘atheists.’ We should not call ourselves ‘secularists.’ We should not call ourselves ‘humanists,’ or ‘secular humanists,’ or ‘naturalists,’ or ‘skeptics,’ or ‘anti-theists,’ or ‘rationalists,’ or ‘freethinkers,’ or ‘brights.’ We should not call ourselves anything. We should go under the radar — for the rest of our lives. And while there, we should be decent, responsible people who destroy bad ideas wherever we find them.”

Side B from Richard Dawkins: “The moment you talk about a supernatural creator, designer, or anything; you are advancing a scientific hypothesis that is either right or wrong.”

Where do I stand? I’d say I’m kind of in the middle. I know that’s an easy way out of answering, but to be fair I’d say I lean more to the Dawkins fence post than the Harris post. I love Sam Harris for his clear statements and explanations. He never fails to make his points absolutely sharp and clear with solid logic and reason. But Dawkins just seems to hit the nail on the head for me. It’s like comparing Carl Sagan to Neil Degrasse Tyson. They both are hosts of the Cosmo’s show, both science communicators extraordinaire, but they are in the same position as Harris and Dawkins on this matter. Neil is not bothered by religion so much as Carl. Neil just points out bad ideas and backs up his reasoning. Carl will do that but also explain why the religion is a bad idea in the first place.

So where is your answer!?!? Ok, here goes. Dawkins points out the fact that in making a claim you have to be either right or wrong. There is no in between in science. We either accept it as truth as best as we can know until further evidence proves otherwise, or it’s wrong. Harris makes a great point that choosing the label only makes us anti something and carries a negative connotation which may not necessarily help us in the end. I think this is where the question is really looking to go anyway. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you are wondering why bother with the negative assertion when I could just ignore it and go about my day peacefully. After all I’m not publicly announcing my anti wrestling status, or anti pineapple status and defending it or promoting it daily. So why the difference here?

As both Sagan and Dawkins have asserted time and time again, Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. If I was to tell you that the sun is actually made from marble cheese, it wouldn’t affect the daily lives of most poeple. But if you were to try to figure out why that marble cheese heats the earth as it does and causes global warming effects to continue to worsen, there would be a problem. Promoting a false truth as fact is where I base my decision to be on that verge of activist atheist, or militant atheist. I may not be that forceful in my delivery, but I do like to share the fact that if you promote a false claim, there is a good chance I am going to challenge you on it to show you how wrong it is to do that, and if you can best me at that and show me how wrong I am I will concede and accept this new evidence. This is not just religion that I’m up against, it’s any supernatural or pseudoscientific claims out there that I come across. (Astrology, homeopathy, voodoo, ghosts, bigfoots, end of the world, conspiracies, etc) So you could call me a skeptic, or atheist in the same breath.

With religion in particular there is the issue of the personally structured belief system that so many people seem to flock to. While I understand the benefits of a religious belief such as being good, or trying to do things to the benefit of your fellow man etc. But the problem lies in the beliefs being based on someone who wrote a book 2 thousand years ago with the knowledge they had at that time. If we are ever to progress as a species we need to stop sticking with these old beliefs especially when we are picking and choosing which parts to believe and not believe. If we used a book from even 500 years ago to figure out how the world worked, we wouldn’t have any of the technology we have today, from vaccines, to airplanes and cars, to electric appliances etc. So why make the exception for understanding the rest of the universe based on a book about a poof there it is genie that made everything we see in the world?

For example I’ll pick on Christianity because we’re in north america and that’s the popular following of choice here. Some believe in the god of the bible and that jesus died for sins and they follow that part well. But when it comes to the ark, and Adam and Eve they look the other way and call it a story to teach us something. I have a major problem with this. How can someone pick a religion that is based on a story, and then pick and choose the parts they like and ignore the rest and then use that belief system that they personally configured to guide how they view the world. That’s like me picking and choosing which sciences to accept and saying well I don’t like chemistry or math so physics you’re out too. I like biology though so I’ll live my life to the max as long as biology says my decisions are ok. By that logic, I would be ok to jump off a building because physics isn’t any way to guide my understanding of the world, biology doesn’t tell me that jumping off a building will accelerate me towards the ground at a speed enough to splatter my insides across a 3 meter area. Science as a whole is either accepted or not accepted. You either accept the process or you don’t, there is no half way point. So don’t do it with religions claims either. The whole is true or the whole is not true. Harry Potter is real, or he isn’t real. Godzilla destroyed Tokyo or it never happened. I’m sure you see where I’m going with that.

So where am I going with the rest of this? I am dragging on I know. So people make their own religion based on their own person ideas and borrow pieces here and there, and then base their ideas on how the sciences have determined the world to be based on these old assumptions. Times have changed and so has the understanding for the worlds operations. We don’t need the ideas of gods to explain the sun moon and stars anymore. We understand the expansion of the universe and how planets and stars are formed now. We understand evolution and natural selection, DNA, and genes now. We don’t need to think that a supernatural force just made all the animals appear then get on a boat to survive some massive flood of the earth. We know Zeus isn’t throwing lightning at us for being horrible people. And on that note, if you are going to assert your belief that your god is real because their book tells you, then why not the thousands of other gods who assert the same. So many religions saviours have been based upon the same story plot line for thousands of years. Look it up. Jesus isn’t the only one with that story. He’s just one of the most recent.

This is why I am a proud atheist. I stand up to fight against the ignorance that is being spread by these beliefs. I may not be the scientist doing the studies but I can do research. I am not afraid to challenge my beliefs either and look at the evidence for new claims. If something new comes along I will change my views to adapt to the new evidence.

And last but not least, our children and future generations depend on this. You can argue that religions can help people be better people overall. But this is just not always the case. There are too many people who use beliefs in old books to be prejudiced towards cultures, sexuality, or any number of differences they can find a reason to dislike. The bible has been interpreted in so many ways that you really can use it to defend any point you wish if you want to assume it really means anything at all. And this goes for any religious text, not just the one. So if this book can be interpreted in so many vile ways, how can it be good? So to bring this all around in full circle, why bother with this negative assertion when you can just ignore it and go about your life in peace while allowing scientific discoveries to push our species beyond our wildest imaginations.

I hope that answers the question. Next question up.

How will you deal with your son with religion/god/spirituality etc when the time comes? Will you allow him to explore other concepts that differ from yours?

No! My son WILL be an atheist. LOL. No, I do have plans to introduce him to the many cultures and religions of the world. I want to make sure he understands that there are these other ways of life all over the world, and to understand just how diverse the human species can be. There is no reason for me to prevent him from whatever he chooses to believe or accept. I can only hope he decides based on the information he finds, and not because I have told him what to believe.

I want to make sure he asks questions and challenges things the best way he knows how. And if he ends up being a muslim, christian, or hindu, then that’s just what he chooses. Of all the religions or beliefs, buddhist would be probably my top pick for him, other than the obvious atheist, or humanist etc. But as long as he’s not mormon or scientologist I’m happy.

I don’t want to be that parent that chooses the life for my kid. I wanted freedom to express myself and to make decisions for myself when I was growing up and I would expect my son to have those same desires. Making decisions on your own is a very important thing in my opinion. When I see people who have grown up under the complete guidance of their parents decisions, they never seem to be truly happy with themselves, or who they are. They seem fake, and often times seem to have real psychological problems with identity. Or they are just so blind to the world around them because they’ve lived a life of “do this and don’t think about doing anything else unless you’re told to.”

This really is a simple answer compared to the first one but I don’t think there is much more to say about it. I want to make sure my son has a solid education and I that’s the most important thing to me at this point. If he has some way to justify gods and ghouls with science and math, then that’s just how it’s going to be.

Thanks again folks for participating. As always, if you ever have questions about anything, I love to write these blog posts about things. I love to research things that are interesting or start long deep discussions on random topics. So don’t ever hold back. I’ll always give you my 100% honest opinion. And if I don’t want to talk about something, I’ll still say something and then say I didn’t want to talk about it but…. LOL.

Cheers, until next time.