A Time Before Science

Currently, I am imagining living in a different time, a time before modern science. I am laying out beneath the stars, and as the night turns to day, I hear the birds chirping and see them fly. Squirrels are scurrying among the trees, and I ask myself where all of this majesty of nature came from.

Now, I’m wondering how I’m going to answer this. Evolution and the Big Bang haven’t been discovered yet. Would I attribute all of the beauty of nature to a deity? It would seem very tempting. Would I be able, in a world less literate, to fall back on philosophy to aid me? I don’t know.

The intricacies of even bugs and insects cry out for an explanation. Would I resort to religion? I often say, now, that you don’t necessarily need science to become an atheist. Reason will do, but on this earth teaming with life, would that be enough? Or, would I succumb to the temptation for an answer, at a time without science?


Morals and Atheism

Here’s the thing about morals: you don’t lose them all of sudden after losing faith in a deity. However, certain “morals” that seem to only be around due to various scriptures, might not stay. For example, homosexuality may no longer seem like a big deal. Nevertheless, people do not go around killing, raping, and looting  after they come to the conclusion there is no God.

Why is this? Human beings are social animals. We need each other. We depend on each other. Morals help glue us together, and prima facie, it seems terrible to hurt one another. Now, it is not good to run into the naturalistic fallacy or to derive an ought from an is, but I think having a basic understanding of how people operate is important when considering any moral code.

Still, I think it is obvious that people operate better when we treat each other with dignity, respect, and kindness. I think society works better when immoral people aren’t throwing wrenches into the machine that is society. Humans are complex people capable of both love and hatred, and most know we cannot act on the more sinister parts of our nature. For those that don’t know this, we have laws.

So let’s examine some of these religiously based “morals.” Let’s take the homosexuality example, for starters. One could  argue appropriately against homosexuality, if it had something inherent in it that harmed the participants or society at large, but homosexuality does not seem to have anything inherently bad in it. For example, if studies could prove that it is necessary to have one man and one woman to raise a child, because having two parents of the same sex was bad for a child, then yes, it could be argued that homosexual couples shouldn’t raise children. This would still not make homosexuality inherently bad. Of course, I would be waiting for the evidence, and with the many children without homes, I think, for them, any parents would be better than none.

So, no morality does not go away due to atheism, but morality is, of course, no longer based on scripture. Morality, when starting out, is generally based on the good parts of our nature. (Some of us get a little more sophisticated and research moral philosophy, but this post has purposely steered away from that.) Furthermore, some scriptural morals are actually not based on the good part of our nature.

Doing the Most Good for the Most People

Many people think morality should be based on doing the greatest good for the greatest amount of people. Of course, this sounds good and obvious at first glance. However, I do not think that this rule, by itself, can work.

Although “doing the most good” works in a variety of situations, it fails in many others. For example, doing medical experiments, even painful ones, on those who were imprisoned during the Holocaust could have been legitimized under this guideline. The people in these camps were going to die anyways, and the experiments could lead to the advancement of health for others. Given these types of situations, I cannot say that utilitarianism alone makes for good source of morality.

Now, some would argue that, while these situations are awful, these types events are simply counter-intuitive, and then, they would stick to their guns. I, however, cannot, at this time, do this. I think there, at the very least, needs to be some additional rules. Perhaps, we also need to do the least harm and respect rights.

For example, let’s say there are a bunch of people in the hospital who need organs and a healthy person sitting the waiting room. It is not okay to kill the healthy person in order to save the others. The healthy person has a right to life, and killing the person would not be doing the least harm. Yes, some of these people waiting for organs might die in the process, but there is a viable alternative to murder. They can simply wait on the organ donation list, and once again, the healthy person has rights. Meanwhile under strict utilitarianism,  it would be okay to kill the healthy person.

I’m not completely devoted to system I’ve explained; however, I’m attempting to carve out what is good in utilitarianism and get rid of what, at first glance, sounds horrible. Please fill free to critique me, and give me your opinions.

Why are Atheists Unpopular?

Us atheists are not very popular. There could be multiple reasons why this is the case, but atheists are, generally, just like everyone else. I, think, most of us don’t walk up to every theist we meet and berate them for their beliefs. Still, just the word atheist seems to leave a person with a stigma. I think there are probably a combination of factors. Still, I think the main reason people don’t like atheists is because they don’t know very many in real life.

Atheism is a very small subset of the population in the US, and many people have met few, if any, atheists in real life. So, their experience is from the media. Fox news loves to suggest that everything left of center and bad going on in the country is part of a secular progressive liberal agenda. They forget that a large portion of liberals are, in fact, God-fearing Christians. (The only atheist they seem to tolerate is Ayaan Hirsi Ali.) Atheists are portrayed as everything going wrong with the country.

Then, there are other popular sources such as the internet. The problem with the internet, of course, is that there always seems to be more trolls than people being genuine. This happens both with Christians and atheists. Now, most people realize that this is just the way the internet is, and most of us, hopefully, know not to take certain people on the internet as a representative of a particular group. Still, this is easier to do from an atheists point of view than a Christian’s. Many Christians don’t have other sources to draw from, and so, it is sometimes difficult to not make generalizations.

The only real way to change atheists’ popularity status is to somehow get more theists to spend more time with atheists in the real world. In other words, atheists  need to be more open about being unbelievers. I don’t know, if there will be a higher percentage of atheists in the near future, so small numbers may continue to be an issue.

Situations that are Irritating to me as an Atheist

Actual Situation 1:

The other day someone tried to give me advice using the Bible, and yes, I tried to stop them. Still, they decided they really needed to give me this advice. Now, this person is normally kind, so I decided I would let them go ahead and let them give their advice. They paraphrased a verse, and I questioned why they chose that particular verse. I knew which book in the Bible it was from, and apparently, this person was surprised by the fact that I knew which book they were using. Furthermore, they didn’t know which book the verse came from in the first place. This person questioned how I knew this. I told them that I’ve read the Bible. This person, then, went on to explain they’ve read parts of the Bible but not the whole Bible.

Note from me: If you are going to be religious, I don’t know maybe read your own scriptures.

Actual Situation 2:

I agreed to go with a friend to a support group meeting. This group was not a religious group. There was a man there who brought up God ALOT. In fact, he kept responding to everyone’s problems using Jesus.

Note from me: It is okay to bring up God in support group, if the person is talking about themselves and their struggles. The other people at the group can then support the first individual. It is NOT okay to bring up Jesus as a response to other people’s struggles. A support group is not a prayer meeting.

Actual Situation 2.5:

So, the group finished, and I walked outside with my friend. She asked how I liked the group. I said I didn’t like it, because of the man who brought up God way too much. I explained that I was an atheist, and the man’s behavior was annoying given the circumstances. Her eyes got wide. She was shocked, and a conversation, albeit not awful, ensued

Note from me: It should not be shocking that someone is an atheist. One does not lose faith one day and then become a serial killer the next day.

Atheists and Agnostics: Statistics in the US

I will be drawing my numbers from the pew research center: Religion in America

Many atheists are happy to here that “nones” make up 22% of the religious landscape of the United States. When compared to other mainstream religions out side of Christianity (5.9%), the religious “nones” seem to be looking pretty decent. Although when compared to 70.6% for various Christians, they do not seem to be doing as well as they would like.

Are atheists and agnostics really doing as well as we hope? One has to look at the “nones” group at little closer. Atheism and agnostics make up 7.1% when added together. The rest of the group are classified either as “Nothing in particular (religion important)” or “Nothing in particular (religion not important.)”

This may seem like I’m making a big deal out of nothing, but it might turn out I’m not. Nothing in particular can take on different meanings. While atheism and agnosticism has become more popular, so have other views. Views like being “spiritual but not religious” and “against organized religion” are also enjoying popularity. Even though these may include atheists and agnostics who like to meditate or believe in the afterlife, they often, also, include those who firmly believe in a deity. People with these kinds of belief may very well survey as “Nothing in particular.”

I hope atheism and agnosticism continue to gain popularity in the US. Of course, this is due to thinking that we atheists have views closer to the truth than do theists and the problem of the religious not tolerating atheists. Still, I think atheists are not as likely to be oppressed by anyone in the “nones” group, but I have little to back this up except personal experiences with the “spiritual but not religious” types.

Who Created God?

Many atheists think positing God as the cause of the universe is a bad idea. This is due to the inevitable question: Who created God? In many atheists’ minds, using God as the cause of the universe just adds more problems.I am a devout skeptic. Still, I think this a bad line of reasoning. I do not think one has to research every theological argument from early Christendom onwards, but I think understanding basic concepts of the western monotheistic deity is somewhat necessary. This is especially true if one is arguing with any believer who has some level of sophistication about their religious beliefs.

The deity is considered eternal and self-existing. In other words, God does not have a beginning, and thus, he doesn’t need a creator. (The main arguments for God’s existence take for granted these ideas.) Now, some may say this is a cop out, but at the same time, this is part of the definition of God, if we are talking about western monotheism. If an atheist chooses to ask the question, then the theists may turn the argument around. They might say, for example, that the atheist is caricaturing their God.

Now, I’m not posting in order to tell people how to argue. That’s really none of my business. Still, I hear this question posed over and over again by atheists to theists, and this includes some outspoken famous atheists. I would, however, like my fellow atheists to be aware of the problems involved in asking this question. It makes debates on YouTube more interesting to watch when the previous ideas are taken into account by the deity. (Okay, I guess I’m selfish. Sue me.)