Growing up I never had much of a choice in the matter. At the ripe age of 5 my dad introduced me to the question of how the world came into existence. My parents are both scientists and my father quickly introduced me to the Big Bang and the scientific evidence related to the creation of the universe. My mother would try to interject at times saying, “he should be able to make that decision for himself”, but in reality it didn’t matter. There’s something about learning from your parents habits that goes beyond the words they say to you. The logically inquisitive nature I inherited from them created an appetite for empirical data and proven hypotheses. Being older now I can see the tradeoffs of my formation as an atheist. Faith in anything does not come naturally to me and anything that I truly trust is based on empirical evidence.
This can affect something as simple as making friends. I’m not the kind of person to trust anyone to be inherently good. Sure, I’m pretty good at carrying out small talk with people I don’t know or people I know superficially, but I don’t see any value in these people. I don’t give off a vibe that’s conducive to making numerous social connections with lower levels of sincerity. I know that religion doesn’t solve this, but religion from an early age can give people a communal experience. You’re exposed to a large gathering of people with similar beliefs that you may not be familiar with. I never had that sense of community and I feel very out of place in larger social gatherings. The analytical part of my brain is constantly picking out who’s actually worth talking to and that probably is a good indicator to you that I’m incapable of a true leap of faith.
Now don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t change my way of thinking for anything else, but I realize the consequences of the way I was raised. I hear stories all the time about people finding faith at every possible point in life, despite their environment, but I know in my heart that I’m in too deep to change that. Realizing the pros and cons of the stereotypical lifestyles associated with religious and nonreligious people made me understand the value in both sides. To all the aggressive atheists out there who downplay the social benefits of religion, you’re making a big mistake. What’s wrong with teaching people morals? What’s wrong with helping poor people and those in need? What’s wrong with building a sense of community? What’s wrong with giving people hope and faith? Many of my fellow atheists don’t disagree with the noble causes that religion is supporting, but they object to the instilling of beliefs in followers that contradict scientific theory. In all honesty I was brainwashed too, I just ended up on the side of atheism and rigorous proof.
To expand on that thought, I view atheism (as most people think of it) as an equal jump in logic when compared to religion. You see, there is no rigorous evidence that God exists, but that doesn’t mean you are correct in assuming God doesn’t exist. Ask any atheist how the particles that formed the Big bang came to be. They will not be able to answer you in full because atheists don’t know where those particles came from either. There is a trend over time that scientific evidence continuously encroaches on religious beliefs, but that does not mean belief in one is mutually exclusive or that scientific evidence will eventually do away with religious beliefs. In the grand scheme of things rigorous proofs and empirical results are a relatively new concept to humans and religion itself is quite old. So atheists are jumping to conclusions of the same magnitude as religious people, from a logical standpoint.
Keeping that idea in mind, I take issue with how most people define atheism. Wikipedia states,”Atheism is in a broad sense the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities.” The second definition is what most people associate with atheism, but it marks a key ideological difference. It depends on what question you are trying to answer. If you wish to answer: Does God Exist? – Well we’ve already been talking about that and as of this moment there is no scientific evidence. If you are trying to answer: Is religion logically solid? – Then we can see the answer based on the atheist perspective is no. So the lack of proof as to the existence of God is what makes religion logically invalid, from an atheists perspective. Ironically those who reject God completely are equally wrong because they claim God to not exist without proper proof.
If you’ve been reading my blog for a bit you will see this common trend in my opinions shifting towards middle ground, but that is not the case here. I think true middle would be defined as agnosticism, which is “the view that the truth value of certain claims such as whether God or the supernatural exist are unknown and perhaps unknowable”. I’m an atheist because I’m not complacent. Agnostics are ok with saying there definitely is no answer and calling it a day. God may or may not exist, but I guess ironically the one thing I have faith in is the fact that logic and the scientific process will eventually give us a definitive answer*. Despite the results I am ready to take either answer.
As I was writing this I went to check my e-mail, but didn’t hit save. Somehow I ended up closing my browser and when coming back to writing I realized my mistake. Thank anyone upstairs for the restore function or I would have lost 1100 words. I don’t really have the initiative to do something over from scratch after an error like that so this post never would have happened. Wow, almost had a heart attack there. *Hits save*
Small disclaimer: When I say “logically invalid” in response to religion, I’m not dissing religious people. This term comes from philosophy and mathematics, referring to rigorous proofs where all conclusions follow from the premises. There must be no counterexamples or holes in the evidence you are presenting. You cannot selectively prove certain parts of a statement. Your proof must be completely universal in application. So the arguments I was providing, in terms of how I understand atheism, were based off of having the conclusions follow from the premises. Rigorous proofs are more complex than that and I gave the basic idea, but if you want more answers take a look here. (There’s this whole distinction between logic in philosophy and logic in math that I won’t get into here because that would realllllyyy make my brain hurt. That may be a topic for a future post.)
*My use of the word faith in that sentence was pretty thought provoking as I was writing. Earlier I wrote about not being capable of leaps of faith, but I discovered through writing this that my belief in the scientific process is pretty much a leap of faith. There are no guarantees that the scientific process will or will not eventually lead to a conclusion, but I firmly believe the question will be answered. Demanding rigor is hard and I’ll relax my standards just for that one circumstance.
Which side are you on and how does that impact the way you live your life? I’d love to hear your take on religion.