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.

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