Monday, February 22, 2010

Why Atheists Argue (Part 2)

The second reason (at least for me) for holding a public dialog on this topic is to attempt to change the negative stereotypes most believers hold about non-believers. This approach is necessary in order to improve the quality of life of a minority group of people in predominantly theistic society. I’m not looking for any special recognition for non-believers beyond the recognition of their worth as human beings. Many people see atheist as incapable of being moral due not deriving their morals from a supernatural being. Or worse, atheists are evil agents of Satan. In the most tolerant cases, we’re seen as unfortunate misguided souls that don’t see what’s right in front of them.

These perceptions are unfounded untruths perpetuated by ignorance and in some cases malicious lies. While there are some people who fit the extreme stereotypes, saying these people represent atheism is like saying Jerry Falwell represents all of Christianity or Osama bin Laden represents all of Islam. I would like to present myself as a typical non-believer, so here is me in a nutshell:

I am a husband and father whose whole life revolves around his family. I know what unconditional love is all about because I know that there is nothing that could ever stop me from loving my wife, kids, parents, sister, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Even if they were to commit a reprehensible act, while I might not be able to face them, I could not stop the feeling of love that continues to pour out of me. To a certain degree, I apply this attitude to the whole human race.

I am a patriot who with unswerving faith in the ideals that really define this country. Freedom, justice, and democracy, are more than catchy slogans for me. They are what give each individual the opportunity to express his or her true being and they allow a society to be more than the sum of its parts. While a may recognize that we as a nation sometimes miss the mark in while aiming for these worthy goals, I believe that our current system is among the best designed to facilitate them. I am willing to fight for these ideals, and I believe my 13 years and counting of military service stand witness to that fact.

I believe in the difference between right and wrong. This blog will eventually help me explore why and how I come to these beliefs, but I reject the notion that they can only come from a higher power. I think there is evidence to support this stance, but that will have to wait for future posts.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Why Atheists Argue (part 1)

I have noticed a common theist response to atheists and their ramblings that goes something like this. “If you don’t believe in God, why is it so important to you to talk about it? Why do you have to discredit religion or religious people or God.” I think it is a very good question and any atheist should have a clear, logical reason before he engages in a public discourse on his or her lack of belief. Non-Believers are a diverse bunch of people. Just like theists, while we may have one central tenet in common with others in our demographic, our experiences and actions in relation to our unbelief will vary wildly from individual to individual. Some may feel the need to shout their unbelief from the mountaintop. Others may be content to quietly go about their business and never give any indication of their faith status. And there are any number of people that fall somewhere in between. This pretty much reflects the human population as a whole. For me, the talking about belief versus non-belief serves two purposes. First, it provides an opportunity to examine our beliefs openly and honestly so we can form our conclusions using all the data available. Second, a civilized and open-minded discussion about atheism hopefully will help dispel the negative perception many theists have about atheists.

First, let’s look at the open and honest discussion reason for talking about it. If anyone holds a belief with such conviction that they are willing to base their worldview on it, they should be able to look at that belief with a critical eye. If said belief influences how we treat other people, this is especially true. Also, to be honest, when discussing the possibility of salvation or eternal damnation, one should have a clear idea of why he or she accepts or rejects any beliefs in that arena. The key here is to hold these discussions while at least attempting to see all points of view ad give them honest consideration before rejecting or accepting them. As humans we are naturally biased, and I accept that myself as well as others will be able to achieve this with sometimes limited success.

The goal here is not to convert anybody to your system of belief. Nobody will change their mind until they are ready to do so. The cracking of a belief system is always an inside job. The goal here is to examine all the data and come to our own conclusions. I have been on both sides of God/no God debate during my lifetime. I understand that many beliefs are held very dear and no amount evidence to the contrary will influence some people’s beliefs. My change of stance happened during a long period of time that there was no dialog on the topic happening. I’m still looking for rational arguments for both sides to either strengthen my position or change it if the evidence requires it.