Thursday, January 5, 2012

Atheism: See, now here's the problem with that...

I've never been one to tip-toe around a subject, but it strikes me that I've been doing precisely that for two thirds of my previous posts, so let me get right into this and lay my cards on the table.

Earlier today, I used the following quote to help elaborate on my stance regarding the relationship between science and religion:

"There is no contradiction between true religion and science. When a religion is opposed to science it becomes mere superstition: that which is contrary to knowledge is ignorance." -- `Abdu'l-Bahá (The full article can be found here)

I think this kind of scratches the surface of the whole 'Atheism v. Theism' debate. As I see it, there are some fundamental flaws in the Atheist position on the matter. First, the argument presented is that there are no forces, phenomena, or entities which exist outside of or apart from physical nature, or which transcend nature, or are “super” natural, nor can there be. Humankind is on its own. (Quoted from American Atheists)Which is often simplified (overly so) to mean 'Since we cannot prove with science that God exists, God must not exist' which is an argument from ignorance, in it's most essential form. Using this logic, we assume that science will never be able to prove that God (in some form or definition) can possibly exist.

As a counter-point to this, I like Arthur C. Clarke's statement on technology and magic... "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Which, in essence, is saying that, any culture which lacks the sophistication to comprehend a thing using logic and reason will explain it in whatever terms it has available. Thus, religion was born to explain those things that logic and reason cannot, and assuming that we have reached the level of technological sophistication to be able to quantify and rationalize every occurrence that has happened, will happen or is currently happening is arrogant in the extreme. We barely understand our own consciousness, much less the universe we live in.

Which brings me to my next point... Stuart Hameroff, a researcher on the subject of Quantum Consciousness, where in the idea of a pre-existant consciousness (proto-conscious) begins to take shape. Now, I'm not a scientist, but I fancy myself as smart enough to comprehend a thing or two. Hameroff presents ideas in the above linked article explaining how and when consciousness might have evolved, and it's a damn sight earlier in Earth's history that was previously suggested. In other circles (nothing I've found suggests that Hameroff himself supports the following) the idea of a pre-existant consciousness is expanded to include the theory that 'God' is not a single omnipotent being with a single omnipresent and omniscious consciousness, but instead that what we grubby creatures refer to as 'God' is actually a collective consciousness made up of every individual consciousness that has ever been, existing as a function of the quantum interactions of the microtubules that make up the smallest pieces of a living brain. Simplified, the universe itself is aware and conscious, and our consciousness is simply the inevitable result of that awareness.

This flies in the face of the Atheist argument, however, because it would mean that the 'Supernatural' is, in fact, 'Natural' and essential to life and the universe. My religious beliefs (interestingly enough) actually dove-tail nicely with the conclusions in the above paragraph.

Now, here's the kicker... My faith teaches me to respect the right to believe as one chooses and to love my fellow man as I love myself, and to never NEVER (under any circumstances) imply that some one else is some how condemned because they believe something different than I do.

On the other hand, in spite of a few beautiful statements and monologues given by some more vocal members of the Atheist community, the prevailing opinion that I personally have encountered is closer to Frank R. Zindler who says things like, "We must revoke the evolutionary curse that nature laid upon us when it created religion," or, even more confrontational statements that I'll also quote. "[Atheism] shall work ceaselessly and with all its energy resources to bring about the liberation of the human mind, to free religion’s prisoners, and to find cures for all the varieties of that most deadly disease, religiosity." How is this less inflammatory than statements made by Fred Phelps? Or Rush Limbaugh? or other members of the fundamentalist religious right? Religion is a deadly disease? No... ignorance, intolerance, hate and discrimination are diseases (communicable and hereditary). Religion is, at worst, used to justify horrible occurrences of these. At its best, religion is a the cure for them. The problem is how the message is interpreted, but too many people of faith choose to let some one else do their reading for them and refuse to draw their own conclusions.

Ignorance, in any form, is a dangerous thing.


  1. Nice post. I have heard some atheists present your argument, so I can't exactly say that it is a strawman argument, but I don't believe your setup argument is how *most* atheists would present their argument.

    I, and most atheists I know, suggest that if presented with extraordinary evidence of a god that such an extraordinary claim requires, we could certainly be convinced. But, the spectacular lack of such evidence suggest within all reasonable doubt that there is unlikely to be a god.

    Now, you might say that's an agnostic position and then we get into debates on definition. I would only suggest that you and I are both probably not agnostic about the existence of unicorns, but our arguments against their existence would be the same as my argument against the existence of god.

  2. If you're referring to this as my 'set up argument:
    "there are no forces, phenomena, or entities which exist outside of or apart from physical nature, or which transcend nature, or are “super” natural, nor can there be."

    I should point out that I got it from here:

    I'll go back and add the link momentarily to avoid future confusion.

    The issue with the two largest camps, with respect to this subject, is that neither one is really very flexible at all. Each has a very concrete definition of what 'God' must be like, which is a bit more of that damned human arrogance I mentioned. If I can't get a five year old to describe Newton's Laws to me, how the hell can humans as a whole even hope to accurately describe something like 'God'? The concept is too big, to expansive, and completely beyond our current capacity to understand. Or, as Arthur C. Clarke might say, it's 'Magic'.

    As for your unicorn analogy, I honestly do hope that your argument against the existence of god consists of something to the tune of 'The idea of unicorns were the result of people observing strange creatures in the water with long, spiraling, 'horns' on their heads, which were the approximate size of horses, and imagination did the rest', because that would be in keeping with the argument FOR the existence of God which I presented above.