When you are walking on glorious, splendid day, wondering at the majesty of the world and the intricate delight of the range of things around you, do you not wonder how anyone could deny that this is indeed god's creation? The sheer magnificence and glory of the planet must surely mean that it was created.
In the same way, do you ever have a darker moment, with worry, feelings of discomfort and uneasiness? Do you feel that at some point, the world had seem a forboding and difficult place to deal with? Perhaps you get comfort from your faith, hoping that it will guide you through to the glorious and splendid days again.
I feel both of these extremes of human emotion often, but without the need to feel religious about it. I do marvel at the breath-taking diversity and amazing detail of the world, but appreciate that in the beauty belies a ruthless and savage nature. The beauty has - and is evolving; the evidence for this is abundant. The state of the world is changing. Perveived perfection evolves to new and different forms of perfection.
I also worry about things. Sometimes, the way forward is not clear. I use my rational abilities to decide the possible outcomes and most suitable ways forward. I get tremendous comfort knowing that the physical structure of nature is sound and not open to interpretation beyond the acceptance of possibility. I think the reliance on external faith based intervention is both irresponsible and irrational.
Human psychological practice understands human emotion, elation and paranoia, triggers to faith and the egotistical desire to search for additional meanings and reasons for existence beyond our world. Its a natural response, based on several human developmental traits:
1. Experiment has shown that animals (including us) have a tendancy to repeat behaviours if we think they do us some good. Much superstition, addiction to gambling and strong faith is based on this basic respose that can be demonstrated with pigeons in a lab.
2. Life must go you after death, as your are that important; too important to live just this one life - Impossible. You have not reached your full potential! All those lessons learned, times wasted, mistakes made, sins to be forgiven... I admit, being dead does not look like a very appealing prospect. Just view the deceased to see they are not looking too healthy. Rather think that something else happens that will be more comforting to believe in.
Do you remember what it was like before you were born? All those thousands of years of history passing without you existing; seeing, thinking, sensing, or being. No-one knew of you, or you of them. All of that time went by until fairly recently, when you were born. You couldn't sense very much then, in the first year or so. But as you grew up, you developed your identity as you became aware of the world around you and your own strengths and weaknesses. You developed your likes and prejudices as you interacted with other people.
In those terms, why view death as anything else as a natural ending to life, and loss of awareness?
Why people believe what they believe is massively important. Faith denies proof, so the faithful can believe in anything. When world leaders express this faith in their speeches and policies, the nature of belief needs to be investigated.
Many people here have not had a chance to hear people who think differently about religion. The US (the primary audience for this site) has a 90% christianity ratio. The UK has a far smaller percentage of christian adherents. Christian societies tend to suppress independent questioning, so many people coming to this site have not even thought about questioning their faiths, but only in enforcing them. Now is the time to start!
Bizarrely, faith is mostly handed down through family connections. You are most likely to undertake the same faith as your parents. Discussion of other faiths or beliefs within the family typically ends at the fiery damnation message from the "hurt" parents who uphold the faith. Why is this? Politics is debateable, so consequently families don't always agree politically.
Religious argument is not encouraged in most societies for fear of offence. I guess the foundations behind this is that there is no rational argument to support one religion over any other religion. Ultimately, faith based belief systems can never be rationalised, as faith denies proof and rationality seeks it.
There is a huge issue between faith and rational science though. Science has dictated progress in the advancement of society. This only began to happen after the stranglhold on society by the catholic church was removed in the 17th century UK. Religious constructs are no longer needed and serve only to mis-direct and mis-inform. Religious viewpoints change to follow scientific discoveries, like evolution and the big bang, so they have begun to be woven into religious doctrine.
Evolution and natural selection, based on mutation and survival of the fittest, does not send the same message as the bible stories told to me as the god's truth when I was a child. The big bang has been agreed to have occurred by many christians, although the consequences of this belief mean that the biblical timeline and origins of the universe are incorrect.
The basis for beliefs - in the big bang or evolution - come from the same scientific framework of proof. This powerful evidence is subject to scrutiny. The same framework of proof would certainly not indicate the existance of god. It puzzles me how christians can believe in evolution and the big bang without seriously doubting their own faiths. The reasons for choosing their dispirate beliefs seems incompatible.
Atheism is a personal understanding. It has no real ministry or doctrine (although there are many small atheist groups). There are also many active christians and christian unions on Gamespot. I'd say evangelical atheism is far safer than evangelical christianity. Why not spread the good news and identify ourselves as rational thinking atheists?
Morals have existed far longer than christianity would have you think. There were many pre-christian civilisations and societies where strong morals were maintained and upheld.
Any social interaction is based on moral constructs. The move away from hunter-gatherer to farming has led humanity to cooperate and work together for a common good. Ideas of murder, rape and theft are harmful to the greater society, so our human constructs were developed over time to enable us to work together productively. For example, harvest time needed people to work together, so they would all have food over the winter.
Christianity has hijacked these moral values from pre-christianity. I've found many christians think of a moral vacuum outside of christianity. They could not be futher from the truth...
I'm adding this after a misguided response to an earlier blog post of mine.
The assertion was made that if you do not believe, then life is pointless. I look at it this way:
If you do believe, the point to life comes after death in salvation. There is no evidence to support this crazy idea, aside from the human mind's instinctive ability to think creatively, the need for assurance from the unknown, the ego of the individual and religious doctrine.
Even religious teachings differ wildly on what form salvation will take after death. There is no consensus, aside from the various religion's damnation in eternity of unbelievers. ( I see that as a trick to reel people in and not let them go from fearful religious teachings ).
So being religious, does living actually have a point, if not to be the introduction to death? If you chose to live a religious life, some of the difficult questions are removed from you and easy answers given instead. Does it matter that the answers might not be true? Not to the church - they've already got your money, thanks.
As I don't believe in the afterlife, I live the one life I have now to its fullest potential. If I don't do something, then I won't get another chance once I'm dead. I feel this mindset allows me to get the most out of life. I have good reasons for living. Life is enjoyable to me. I see myself as being productive, adding to the social groups I see myself belonging too and still enjoying a journey of discovery and learning that has stayed with me throughout my life so far. My rational atheism gives me the same sort of smug comfort I expect religious types feel for thier views on the afterlife.
In psychological terms, we all need to feel we have a purpose and a value. That's why most people do dead-end, boring jobs for most of their lives. Its human nature to want to feel "right" about something and that what you are doing has some oversight, influence and guidance. I feel this illusion only serves to relieve people of their responsibilities. For example, would you pray for the starving, or try and help them.
Religion teaches people wrongly that the value you have is derived from gods love. Even pias people are not held in the same high regard as a converted sinner in christianity. I think the "value" people have is based on their their own subjective analysis of their acts done, desires and relationships they have with other people.
What is the point of life for the millions of young children born globally in shameful poverty, dying of malnutrician and disease at the moment? They don't even know of god despite allegedly being god's children, so how can they be "saved"?
Living a religious life often means towing the line, doing as you're told, not independently questioning your beliefs, being fearful under god. How is that living?
How do I know? Why would I come out with such a strong statement?
Its massively important to think about things rationally in this world. Too much damage has been done by people acting in the name of their faith. It still goes on today... The leaders of the 2 most aggressive and oppressive powers in the word (US and Iraq) both believe in gods and religion. But their faiths are incompatible - sworn to hatred and hell-fire deaths for each others beliefs. Which one is right? How can anyone ever decide which is correct, since it is impossible to prove the existence of god?
Proof need not be a subjective evaluation, but can be scrutinised objectively. Truth is something scientists strive to grasp. Scientific method, peer scrutiny, repeated experimentation, observation and evaluation can quantify exactly what proof and truth are. Scientific principles are always held open to debate, whereas religious principles are typically not open for discussion.
How many millions of people - men women and children - have lived suffered or died (or all three) needlessly? If a god could intervene, surely the suffering would have stopped by now. Why believe in such a benign divinity?
History and archaeology show us views of the pre-christian past; they show us insights into the way social groupings and early societies lived. Some had many gods and some had none. They did have moral and social values that form the premise of the 10 commandments.
What is it about chritianity that makes people believe it, when there is just as much justification for Norse, Greek or Roman gods? Equally, islam is on the rise, due to the oppressive regimes and sharia law, linking religion to government and the rejection of democracy. It means the reduction in political choice and freedom of thought. Christianity is on the decline due to western enlightenment and the success of scientific discovery. Some discoveries have cast doubt on the authenticity, translations, omissions and additions to the bible, since its pre-christian arameic origins.
Human psychology and shown us how mental conditioning works; how addiction, fanaticism and belief are linked and triggered in the human mind. Religious constructs, mindsets and beliefs can be explained in rational psychological terms. Religion is just a clever psychological trick.
Why do people need to be tricked? Are you afraid of dying? Scared you're all alone? Don't want to think for yourself? Religion gives you a nice crutch. Aside from that, its utterly useless for human progress and evolution. Surely we live in an age now where we can discount it as a fairy-story...