Sunday, February 04, 2007

Sunday sermonette

I recently saw an interesting question on a blog discussing religious and non-religious philosophies. This was the question, which I've seen phrased in different ways numerous times before:

"How can atheism be something that leads us towards peace and the alleviation of suffering?"

Who ever said that is what atheism is or does? Atheism is the conclusion that no "supernatural" forces (although I detest that oxymoronic term, it is as devoid of meaning as "infinity squared") exist. I see no reason to believe that the universe can not be thoroughly understood through empiricism using observation and experiment, and that there has been no aspect of the universe so far discovered that requires me to postulate that which can not by definition be observed and experimented upon. Although, as far as answering the question posed, it turns out that whenever cultures decide that simply based upon reason and emipiricism that it is best to cooperate and coexist and actually strive to do so, peace and the alleviation of suffering are the usual results.

Who says that religion leads us towards peace and the alleviation of suffering? I only see the people who are trying to persuade others that their own supernatural beliefs are valid and must be accepted at face value and even respected, although they are subject to neither logic, measurement, observation, experiment nor even the need to be consistent. The fact is that the argument that religion leads us to peace and well-being is a red herring, a little distracting hand-waving. Even if religion has (although this is certainly debatable considering the amount of war and suffering it has caused) contributed to peace and the alleviation of suffering, how does that make the central supernatural thesis true?

Morality and ethics have existed since humanity began and are rooted in our ability to live together in peaceful and productive community and necessitate no unobserved and unknowable deities. No atheist ever said that not believing in mythological entities makes one a better person or the world a better place, it only makes one a slightly more rational person and the world a place of fewer ideas that have no empirical foundations. When you base your entire world-view on foundations that can only be accepted by relinquishing your ability to reason, you are building a castle on quicksand.

What atheism does is to remove one of the most powerful of the many socio/cultural filters that deny reality, which can only lead to an overall increase in the rationality in any particular individual and an overall inrease in the rationality of the culture that makes that determination. Atheists can still be bad people individually, although it seems very rare as statistically atheists are arrested and convicted far less than self-professed theists when scaled for relative percentages of each in the population. Atheists also tend to have significantly higher educational accomplishments than theists as well.

You can still have other stupid beliefs as an atheist, but at least you are free from baseless superstitions.


Blogger Mary K. Goddard said...

Oh, stop making sense! ;-)

7:58 PM  

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