This is the official blog of Northern Arizona slam poet Christopher Fox Graham. Begun in 2002, and transferred to blogspot in 2006, FoxTheBlog has recorded more than 423,000 hits since 2009. This blog cover's Graham's poetry, the Arizona poetry slam community and offers tips for slam poets from sources around the Internet. Read CFG's full biography here. Looking for just that one poem? You know the one ... click here to find it.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Art of Being an Atheist

Posit from a friend: "I have a very intellectual friend who labels himself agnostic. he claims that atheists are idiots in a sense because atheism is a religion. the belief in nothing, meaning there is no god, is a faith since there is no evidence that can prove the nonexistance of a god. what you say kind sir? (sorry that was poorly worded, but you get the idea i'm sure)

There are 'atheists' who subscribe to some sort of divinity or 'spirit' but they're not atheists in the true sense. Atheism isn't a religion. There isn't a book we all read or anything, it's just having a rational debate equatable to "Everyone believes in Santa. Never seen him and the only people who told me about him were my parents and friends, and Christmas songs, but they haven't seen him and there's nothing really out there."

That doesn't make an anti-Santaist, just someone who doesn't tell children there's a dude in red with an unhealthy addiction to stale cookies and dairy that's been out too long.

There are humanist atheists, Buddhist atheists, Jewish atheists, Taoist atheists and Christian atheists, some of them "strong" "ashes-to-ashes-dust-to-dust" atheists who find value in the specific teachings of their belief systems but deny any supernatural influence or existence.

The misconception that most people have about atheists is that there is a common belief system.

A number of atheists are really anti-Christian, anti-clerical or anti-theists, not true atheists, so they're fighting against Christianity specifically (other faiths have their detractors but Christianity seems to really bring it out).

As a 'strong' or 'hard' atheist, I lack an external belief system based around any theistic argument. I don't believe in anything, not "I do believe in nothing." It's a semantic argument, but one with weight.
Most atheists subscribe to basic conceit that "I don't believe there is any sort of spirit, God or life force" which is different than "I believe there is no sort of spirit, God or life force."

I see all faiths the same way we look back on extinct religions. We can derive moral stories from Zoroaster and the myths of Hercules, Gilgamesh and Mithras, but there's no need to slit a bull's throat on the winter solstice for prosperity for next year. Good stories, but so is "Lolita" and "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas."

The root of the issue beyond it all is the theocentric argument of "... since there is no evidence that can prove the [nonexistence] of a god." That's an agnostic cop-out based around a theistic belief system.

Agnostics are too cowardly to get out of the box and look at how the question is framed and theists assume they're right that they can ask a question that presupposes a deity and its up to atheists to prove them wrong with evidence that they themselves can find to argue the counterquestion. I respect devoutly religious people and atheists more than agnostics because the two factions have at least the conviction to settle on one side of the argument. Agnostics either haven't seriously explored the issue, don't want to, or choose to remain outside the argument altogether. Thus, I am far more likely to debate a religious person on merits than try to convince an agnostic to pick a side.

It's not up to us atheists to disprove god. There isn't one cause there isn't.
There isn't a monster under your bed either because there just isn't.
It's up to agnostics to argue that "there might be one but we can't prove it either way," or theists to prove, "there is a god, you can't see it, but trust us."

Being a fairly vocal atheist, I've heard the "prove to me that god doesn't exist" argument a lot. And the only rational answer is, "there isn't because you can't see one, feel one, touch one, or hear one. Prove to me that despite all the evidence of nothing that there is something. Then try to define its shape and behavior."

When this question is reframed, it can be pushed to the point of absurdity, "So god watches us? Like all the time? From where? And he knows all the things we do? And so he sees the times we 'sin' and the rationale we formulate, yet still act? Doesn't that seem counter-intuitive? Considering he knows we feel a little bad?" Etc.

If you like religion, great. Pray, hope, indulge in ritual. Just don't be a jerk.

If you can see the inherent human-centric arrogance in believing that an all-powerful deity has the time or interest in weighing the souls of people based on they think or feel then maybe you'll cross over into rational atheism. But at least explore all the options in your own head. When we die, we'll know what the real deal is.

Of course, as an atheist, it'll be slow fade, bright flash as neurons fire for the last time, then nothing.



Zen Cowboy said...

I'm kind of considering maybe settling into a new religion based on self worship. I'm calling it autism. I think it'll really catch on.

justdoit said...

Hi Christopher... I really enjoy reading about atheism although I am a believer. The point is I like seeing things from as many perspectives as possible. I actually think most of the points atheists bring to the table are excellent point, and sometimes the defensiveness of religious people actually make atheism look more attractive. I want to comment on some of the things you say... however, I won't try to convince anyone because I will lose. The best "proof" I have about God and Jesus is nothing scientific and most people won't believe it.

I agree that the burden of proof relies on the theists. However, I sincerely think no theist will ever have tangible proof, and unless you see God you might never believe. You say that "the only people who told me about him were my parents and friends, and Christmas songs, but they haven't seen him and there's nothing really out there." Well in my case my mom and my aunt saw Jesus together. This happened when they were about 10y/o and they were together in their room... the light went off (it was early in the morning and they were getting ready for school) and then at the center of the room a bright light appeared and took the form of Jesus (like the painting with the Sacred Heart). He spoke to them, but they say they can't remember what was said. But they were together, and they both saw it at the same time, and to this day when you ask them they say it did happen. I have no reason to doubt them because I know them, and my aunt in particular is one of the best persons I've ever met (my mom says Jesus probably just wanted to appear to my aunt but they were always together). I know you won't believe me, and that is okay, but the point is that you can't say nobody has ever seen Jesus, because I know there are claims, and I'm sure most will be fake, but it doesn't mean some aren't true. There is no way to prove that, how can you prove it?

About what you said that atheists "they're fighting against Christianity specifically (other faiths have their detractors but Christianity seems to really bring it out)" I really can't understand why (except that most atheists live in Western Countries where Christianity is the most popular religion). I don't really believe in the Bible, especially the Old Testament. However, when you read about Jesus's life then I can't see why atheists in particular would want to attack him. Have you read about Mohamed? His biography is quite disturbing. Even in other religions/philosophies the "enlightened" masters had some sort of flaw. For example Buddha, I read he was a very good man, but he abandoned his wife and son? He also based his teachings in avoiding suffering. However, Jesus talked about things good men would talk about, he said not to judge, he said to love your enemy (which would prevent wars), and he was the only one who claimed being the son of God. Jesus's teachings were based on love, and he encouraged people to not be afraid. Like you said maybe you don't want to believe, but even as a fable, Jesus is a good one.

I know this is a long post... so I will stop here, but those are my views and like Socrates said "I just know that I know nothing".

Anonymous said...

People need reassurance that they are good and have control over their lives. This is where God comes in. The security blanket that says, " You're alright matey" and what-a-ya-know, heaven it is. I had to go to church for most of my childhood and always knew something was wrong. When I finally let go of "God" everything about my life improved... everything. I have read about stupid jesus and read about stupid mohamed and I have found that people will believe anything.