Faith and The Sparrow

I watched the new HBO documentary Questioning Darwin twice yesterday.  This film precisely defines the conflict between the people who believe in the literal interpretation of the Bible and their objection to Darwin and evolution.  Even though I’m an atheist I’ve always believed that fundamentalists had a better intuitive understanding of evolution than the average church goer.  They know evolution is an alternative explanation for reality that absolutely contradicts their faith.  Most modern people are wishy-washy in their religious and scientific beliefs and try to hold both at the same time, believing they can keep God and embrace modern knowledge.  However, if you really understand evolution or you really understand faith in God, you know the two cannot coexist.  That’s what this documentary is about.

HBO-Darwin

People who understand science will see this documentary and wonder why the faithful cling so passionately to their ancient beliefs.  But the faithful who see this film will wonder at how the disciples of Darwin can’t see the obviousness of God.  The wishy-washy middle will wonder why we can’t have both.  It doesn’t work that way.  Often my friends ask me why I can’t just be an agnostic – why be an extremist. 

At one point in Questioning Darwin a preacher states it takes just as much faith to believe in science.  And he is right.  Both evolution and theology are systems to explain reality.  Backers of evolution firmly believe evolution is true.  Science is a process that evaluates evidences and selects the best explanations that describe the various workings of reality.  The science minded feel the evidence is overwhelming in support of evolution.  The fundamentalists insist God create reality and us.  The wishy-washy will say God created science and evolution.  But that’s a cop out.  Atheists and fundamentalists know there are two opposing explanations and you have to pick one. 

To the scientific minded, who dislike the word faith, I think they don’t understand the term as used by the faithful.  They think it means wish fulfillment.  They think when a religious person says they have faith in God they are saying they are choosing to “believe” God exists.  To the faithful, faith means they “know” God exists.  They have completely accepted God as the answer to explaining all the questions of reality.  By that definition of faith, atheists who back science have faith in science, and they “know” evolution is the explanation of how life arose on Earth.  But we’ll leave the word faith to the religious, and keep the word scientific for the science minded.

Folks in the middle will explain we can’t know anything for certain.  That’s true.  We can’t.  However, fundamentalists and atheists know there are currently only two choices, two theories, on the table, and they are exact opposites, and we feel it’s important to man up and pick one.  That’s what this documentary shows – the two conflicting options.

Even Darwin clung to God.  And many educated religious leaders want to understand and incorporate scientific knowledge into their metaphysical philosophy.  The vast majority of Christians are in the middle.  They aren’t Biblicists.  The Bible Christians, with their creationism and  Creation Museum insist the world is only six thousand years old, and use pseudo-sciences like intelligent design to attack real science to validate their beliefs.  It’s hard to say how many Americans believe this – one Gallop poll said 46% of Americans, but that’s probably not true.  The Raw Story analyzed that poll and concluded maybe 31 million Americans, or one tenth of the country.

Also, the numbers for people supporting evolution varies too, with atheists being the strongest at 87%, Buddhists (81%), Hindu (80%) and so on down to evangelical protestants at 23%, Mormons (22%) and Jehovah’s Witnesses at 8%.  Wikipedia using Pew Forum claims 48% of the U.S. population supports evolution.  Between the 46% Gallop figure and the 48% Pew figure, we can see how the country is polarized, and this topic matters.

The two choices are this.  The first theory is a supreme being is the starting point of everything, one of perfect knowledge, power and order, and reality descends from his being.  From perfect order towards chaos.  The second theory believes reality emerges out of nothingness, with no knowledge, no order, and no power, and is evolving toward something, becoming ever more complex and orderly.  From chaos to order.

Polarized Politics

One significant aspect of Questioning Darwin is to explain our polarize society.  If religious beliefs were merely personal it wouldn’t matter if some people believed in God and others in science, but the faithful want to change society so it follows their beliefs, and science automatically changes society through technological spinoffs.  I believe the rigidity of Republican party comes from the rigidity that believing in The Bible is the absolute word of God.  I also believe that anti-science philosophy is reflected in conservatives getting involved in the politics of education.  I used to believe that the small government movement merely reflected cheapness for not paying taxes, but more and more it appears to be because fundamentalist citizens hate spending their money on liberal ideas.

The documentary didn’t go into politics, but all the evidence was there to read.  Bible based believers want to redesign society so it matches their philosophy.  They feel both persecuted and empowered.  The documentary said that Bible based Christianity was the fastest growing religion in the world.  I don’t know if that’s true, but if it is, then expect an ever growing conflict between science and faith.

Accepting Science

My heart goes out to the faithful, to those people who embrace God.  When I watch this documentary I see all the reasons why they prefer God over science.  And I’m sure when they see this documentary their hearts will go out to all the non-believers.  But here’s the thing, the faithful believe us atheists live without many comforts they think they get from God, and I don’t think that’s true.  They cannot comprehend how we can live without God, and fear us.  They believe we embrace chaos.  We don’t.  We seek all the things belief in God gives the faithful.   We just find meaning and comfort by other paths.

We have a different approach to dealing with every sparrow that falls from a tree.  We can’t replace God and religion exactly, but we have many analogs.

Father Figure

One thing that comes through strongly in Questioning Darwin is the strong desire of religious people for a father figure.  People want a strong protector that is just and wise.  One that will always listen and always help, and most importantly, always care.  In Darwin’s reality, we all have to become our own father figures.  We want to grow up and leave home and stand on our own.  The faithful love the quote, “there are no atheists in foxholes.”  They believe when times are tough everyone will beg for God’s help.  That isn’t true.  True atheists understand and accept the randomness of the universe.  If there’s a shell with our name on it, then our time is up.  It’s not personal.  We don’t want to die, but death comes to us all, and usually it’s an apparently random fate.  Science and knowledge gives us understanding to how things happens.  It’s not completely random.  Sometimes its from the will or fault of another person, and we do find that evil and unjust.  We don’t expect a father figure to rescue us, and especially not one that will avenge us.

Darwin explains how we got here, but he said nothing about what it means to be a self-aware being finding itself in an unconscious reality.  Humans with scientific knowledge will be able to conquer the random chaotic indifferent universe.  There is no God that senses every sparrow that falls from a tree, but humans are now aware of sparrows and maybe it’s our responsibility to take care of all of them.

Order and Morality

Related to the father figure wish, is the desire for justice.  The faithful hate the idea that the universe is random and capricious.  The faithful want God to be the arbiter of right and wrong, and the punisher of evil doers.  The want the universe to have a referee who knows the rules that everyone must follow.  The faithful hate not having clear rules to live by.

The scientific have laws and ethics.  We do not believe the universe has morality built into it, but we do believe that intelligent beings can create their own morality.  We call that ethics.  We also believe that intelligent beings can invent their own rules to live by.  We can them laws.

We have also created the idea of human rights, and more recently, animal rights.  Even though we are Godless, we embrace ethics and morality completely.  Right and wrong is just as important to our philosophy as it is to literal Bible believers.

Yes, the universe is chaotic, seemingly ruled by random events, we see the emergence of order in everything.  If someone dies horribly from cancer we don’t see it as punishment.  We don’t blame God, or wonder if the person deserved to die a miserable death.  We study the environmental and genetic causes of cancer to understand how it happened.  Even though randomness is a major factor in everything that happens, we still find cause and effect.  It’s not a meaningless universe to us.  If a sparrow falls from a tree, we study why.

Immortality

Believers in God have one overwhelming wish they expect God to grant – everlasting life.  Science accepts death comes to us all but we work to extend life as much as possible.  Personally, living forever scares me.  It sounds like a cruel torture.  But us unbelievers do want a longer life, and we expect science to study reality and discover how to make people live longer.

Not only do we want longer lives, we want to make sure our species does not become extinct, and we want to protect all other species.

Heaven

As a nonbeliever who occasionally studies The Bible. it seems to me that two most important books are the first, Genesis, and the last, Revelation.  To believers, the first explains how we got here and the last explains where we’re going.  The Book of Revelation has the most extensive description of heaven in all of The Bible.  And if it’s the literal truth, I don’t think I want to go to heaven, especially not for all of eternity.

Those of us believe in science want to build paradise on Earth.  We want to conquer disease, live a long time, create a humane and just world, with lots of creative activities to pursue.  We want to live long enough, and then die peacefully.  We accept death, but don’t embrace it.  Not only do we want to create heaven on Earth for humans, but we want to recreate Eden for the animals.

Prayer

From watching the documentary I got the feeling that prayer was among the most cherish aspects of religion.  That being able to talk to God is the number one need.  I think we all feel lonely in this old reality.  When I saw the scenes of the happy people at the mega-church I envied them their community togetherness.  Praying together is a way of sharing hopes and fighting fears.

We unbelievers have a substitute for prayer.  Instead of asking God to change reality for us, we believe we should change reality ourselves.  We don’t plead to God to heal the sick, but spend money on medical research.  We vote for Obamacare.  We don’t pray to God to stop evil wrong doers, we pay for police and the judicial systems.  We don’t pray for world peace but build armies.  We don’t pray for rain, but build irrigation systems.  We don’t beg God to send us a husband or wife, but join Match.com.  We don’t ask for riches, but go to college or invent Candy Crush.

Also, I am constantly thankful.  I am grateful for being alive, for having a lucky life, for family and friends.  I spend a lot of time studying nature and science to appreciate the wonders of reality.  I constantly think good thoughts about other people, animals and all life on Earth, and even out into the universe.  That kind of positive thinking is our prayers.

Sin

Religious people are frightened and horrified by all the evil things that happen on Earth.  We nonbelievers are just as scared and repulsed by those events too.  In the documentary it shows a wing at the Creation Museum that depicts these horrors.  Many of the pastors and their followers interviewed talked about sin, and the origin of sin.  All pointed to the fall from grace in the Garden of Eden.  Some of the people interviewed even believed that dinosaurs existed in the Garden of Eden and that Adam and Eve and all the animals were vegetarians before sin came to us.  Believing there was no violence or suffering before sin.

The scientific minded don’t like violence either.  I’m a vegetarian.  I don’t want animals or people to suffer.  I’m a liberal and want the government to help needy people so they won’t suffer.  I give money to causes to end suffering.

Science, law, technology and ethics are all efforts to create order, to end suffering and to create justice.  We want to educate people so they won’t do evil.  So they won’t hurt other people, or protect the weak.

In a way I agree with the fundamentalists, and believe that it is humans that brought sin into this world.  I actually think the metaphor for the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil is a beautiful concept.  I think the writers of The Book of Genesis knew there was a time when we were like animals, and were innocent of good and bad, and that language and understanding let us know the difference between what should be and shouldn’t.  Those writers wished we still lived in the Garden of Eden, innocent and without sin.  Boy, they would have loved Jean-Jacques Rousseau.   Us disciples of Darwin see it differently.  Yes, there is sin in the world, but through knowledge we’ll learn to live ethical and good lives.  Violence is the rule of reality from The Big Bang to The Enlightenment.  It’s only been in the last few centuries have we learned that violence is wrong, and that human rights and animals rights is the way to end it.  We don’t believe Eden existed – yet.

Humans are an emergent phenomenon, sort of like the singularity we imagine for intelligent machines.  Humans woke up and saw reality and have been trying to figure it out ever since.  We reached a critical mass of brain cells that allowed us to be self-aware – aware of who we are and the reality we lived in.  We didn’t fall from grace, but emerged from the chaos of nature.  We became a new type of entity in reality – one that recognized it’s place in reality.  Reality is pretty scary.  Our job isn’t to die and go to heaven, but to conquer reality.

We left Eden not because we were exiled, but because we could no longer be unaware animals.  We wear clothes not because of shame, but because we don’t want to be animals.  We left Eden because we wanted freedom to become everything we can imagine.  Sure, we’ve fucked up the planet, but we’re still evolving.  Hopefully, we can make things right and get our shit together before we destroy everything.

Nature is not sinful, it’s just red tooth and claw.  Only humans can be sinful and evil.  We do that when we act like animals and destroy rather than create.  We achieve grace and transcend nature when we live up to our full potential and become good by our own definition of goodness.  The ten commandments were not from God, but our own creation to bring goodness into the world.

Sin defined by God is servitude and slavery.  Sin defined by humanity is escaping from nature.

The desire to return to Garden of Eden innocence is the desire to go back to sleep, to become unconscious to the nature of reality.

To the faithful, sin is not obeying God, but to the scientific, sin is not living up to our knowledge.

The evil of the red tooth and claw of nature is the hatred of chaos.  Science seeks to understand reality so that we might bring order to chaos.  Most of the evils of mankind are from when we act like animals, which reflects the programming of nature.  Currently the Earth suffers because humanity collectively acts like a cancerous growth on the planet, killing endless species and destroying the ecosystem.  It comes from being unconscious to the knowledge science has shown us.  The most evil of sin is being aware and doing evil.

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

The most disturbing of all the points they illustrate in the documentary is when they show a young girl in the hospital paralyzed from the neck down because she was in a car accident.  Her cousin said his wife prayed and prayed but wondered why it didn’t help.  The cousin wondered why an all powerful and all knowing God could let this happen.  They speculated that God had a purpose and claimed they had faith in whatever that purpose might be.

Here’s where I find atheism far more comforting than religion.  We can all be victims of random evil.  Sometimes it’s nobody’s fault, nor did we do anything to deserve punishment.  And when someone is at fault, it’s explainable, like a drunk driver, or mad gunman.   Isn’t it better to have something bad happen to you and not think God has it in for you?  Especially if you love God so much?

Being Saved

Towards the end of the documentary they interview at ex-prostitute crack user and a former heroin addict who both claim God saved them.  Religion has saved a lot of people.  Religion can bring order and stability to people.  But millions of nonbelievers have saved themselves too.  As an atheist when I meet people like these two saved people I don’t want to argue with them, or try to take away their faith.  They were lost and now they are found.  I can accept that.  But God isn’t my explanation for why they are better.

Both of these people were addicted to drugs.  Now they are addicted to a belief in God.  They switched from a negative addiction to a positive addiction.  They found a community of people to belong, and they’ve turned their life around.

Personally, I think they got a virus that changed them.  Memes are viruses of the mind.  God and religion are powerful generators of memes.  Memes replicate and spread like mental viruses.  They are like DNA in that they replicate.  Religious memes are very successful because they make people feel good.  Really good.  As good as crack or heroin.

My parents were alcoholics.  My father died of drinking when I was 18.  My mother eventually gave it up.  She was religious, but I think she gave up drinking and smoking from her own willpower.  I did a lot of drugs when I was young, but I gave them up.  I saved myself.  But I think some people need other people to save themselves.  They think it’s God, but it’s really a community of caring people.

Churches

If they had churches for atheists I think we’d have a lot more atheists.  I think a lot of people believe in God because they like going to church and being part of a community.  I’m pretty sure millions of people profess the doctrine of their church because that’s what they are told, and it’s easy to accept rather than study science books.  But what they really want is friends and community.  That professing belief in Jesus is just learning the secret password to join the club.

True believers of Darwin have their club houses too, they are called universities and research institutes.  But the average citizen who backs science usually don’t have scientific clubs to join.  Amateur astronomy is big on clubs, but we usually don’t see hangouts for physic and chemistry fans.  Birders and some other naturalists do have a lot of amateur associations.

I wonder if there would be more professed atheists in America if we had churches devoted to believers in science.  Imagine going to service on Sunday to hear lectures on cosmology and mathematics, mixed with singing and study groups for evolution and quantum mechanics.  With Sunday night dinners and Wednesday night social gatherings with kid’s activities, such as robot building contests.

Charles Darwin and Evolution

The thing believers hated most about Darwin and evolution is takes away the concept that humans are special, that we are special in God’s eyes.  Many of the preachers talked about humans being created in the image of God, and that we weren’t animals, as if being an animal was undignified, or lowly.  I thought it was strange that they’d prefer to be a servant of God to being the top dog of the animal world.  I find a kind of affinity with the line from Paradise Lost, “Better to reign in Hell, than to serve in Heaven.”

Until we meet an intelligent alien from the stars, we are the kings of the universe.  We are now responsible for what happens on this world.  We can choose to be great, or act like animals.  We can create our own immortality, our own paradise, or own morality, our own health and happiness.  We are the father and mother to what will be.  This might be hubris, but only if imaginary gods are real, and there’s never been a shred of evidence to believe they are, only wishes.

JWH – 2/12/14

How To Become an Atheist?

Many of my atheist friends like to argue with religious people.  I don’t.  As long as people don’t try to make their religious beliefs into laws, and turn this country into a theocracy, I don’t care what they believe.  However, I find it very intriguing how some atheists believe they can enlighten the faithful with science, as if new and better explanations of reality will supplant myth driven memes.  I’m not sure it works that way.  Think of a meme as virus of thoughts and knowledge.  Concepts – memes – have a powerful life of their own.  They infect our brains in ways beyond logical understanding.

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My theory is you have to go further into religion to find your way out.  Religious beliefs are deep-seated memes acquired in our formative years.  These memes are ancient and deeply routed in our culture.  It requires some serious soul searching to deprogram oneself.  I suppose some people might argue with an atheist or read Richard Dawkins and abruptly change their mind, but I’m not sure it’s a significant number.  Personally, I think most people are indifferent or only mildly accepting of religious beliefs.  They aren’t philosophical, and life after death isn’t that important to them one way or another.  It’s the true believer we’re really talking about. But true believers are hard wired to accept what they are taught as a child and won’t give up their ingrained beliefs easily.  Religion promises two things that science can’t, purpose and immortality.  True believers would rather have a purpose driven life with the promise of heaven, than the truth and death.

Converting true believers to evidence based thinking is probably a near impossible task.  I’m not actually interested in working at it, but as a philosophical problem of how to reprogram the mind, it’s a fascinating puzzle.  My hypothesis for my atheist friends is to suggest a different approach.  Instead of teaching science, teach religion.  Here’s what I would suggest that might work better.  Advise your God obsessed friends to:

Read the Bible

As a teen one of the most powerful deprogramming tools I discovered for myself was reading The Bible.  Start at the beginning and read it like a book.  Later in life I started listening to audiobook editions, and they are very powerful tools for revealing the book’s secrets.  The Bible is a very weird book.  It’s obvious written by many people, and for many reasons.  While reading it, constantly ask:  Who wrote this part?  Who did they write it for?  Why?  What did they hope to achieve?  Don’t just whiz past all the words and stories.  Think about their purpose.  Remember they were written 2,000-3,000 years ago, and they were first told as oral stories, not written, to people who were not literate, who had no concept of science, philosophy, history, medicine, mathematics, etc.  The Old Testament is fascinating because it’s obviously more of a book about social management than a textbook for spiritual education.  It’s about a history of people becoming a nation, about rulers inspiring a sense of history and social cohesion, and a means to justify the ownership of a piece of land.

The New Testament is totally different.  It’s a history of how Christianity started, but told from side of the winners.  Christianity had a myriad of forms in the first century.  Just reading The New Testament without historical supplements, it’s easy to spot that Paul is imposing his will on how people will conceive of Christianity.  Through his attacks on other proto-Christians we see there was many differences of opinions.

Study the Bible as History

Start with studying how The Bible has been translated into English many times over the last four hundred years.  That’s very fascinating.  Then study different approaches to modern translations – literal versus lyrical approaches.  Bart Ehrman was a fundamentalist believer until he went to divinity school to study The Bible in its original languages.  Ehrman is not an atheist, but his scholarly studies of how The Bible was put together has changed his beliefs.  I highly recommend reading his books.  Ehrman is also a specialists on early Christian sects and the battle for orthodoxy.  Be sure and study Gnosticism.  Elaine Pagels is a good writer for this.

Study the Gospels in a horizontal fashion.  They often retell stories about the same events but with different facts.  Learn how to put the various stories in chronological order to see when various belief memes arose.  Many cherished Christian beliefs were added long after Jesus died, and deal with concepts he never spoke about.  Read The Five Gospels created at The Jesus Seminar.

There are literally millions of books on religion, try to find the ones that use a scholarly historical approach, rather than speculation and interpretation books.

After studying The Bible itself, start studying history and anthropology of Biblical times.  Learn to overlay stories in The Bible with real history.  Study the cultures that existed concurrent to Israel and see how they saw events The Bible.

Study Other Religions

Going ecumenical is a great way to undermine your own parochial beliefs.  Start attending a variety of Christian churches and compare their specific doctrines.  Attend and study Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim religious services and holy books.  Start reading about everyone’s saviors and saints.  Study the origins of religions before monotheism.  Gods and religions existed for thousands and thousands of years before anything in The Bible was even thought about.   Karen Armstrong is a writer I like that explores the origins of religion.  Study Joseph Campbell, for myths and mythology.  I learned Buddhism from Alan Watts and Hinduism from Ram Dass, but I’m sure there are more comprehensive scholars have emerged since way back then.

Conclusion

I’m not sure how much is involved with getting people to change their minds about cherish beliefs and desires.  I’m a lifelong science fiction fan, who believes in many science fiction memes that I acquired early in childhood and have clung to my entire life.  Science undermines my beliefs too, and I hate to give them up.

However, it’s my theory that more knowledge about our cherished beliefs will change them faster than learning about other ways of thinking, or just being told they are wrong.  Over the decades I’ve actually studied faster-than-light travel, robotics, interplanetary travel, interstellar travel, colonizing the Moon and Mars, and many other science fictional memes, and it has been learning the limits of these concepts that has changed my mind.  Sure, it meant learning more science, but it took time for me to live with my cherished beliefs to understand how they wouldn’t work.

JWH – 1/22/14

Christmas for Atheists

I’m not one of those Grinch atheists that want to remove Christmas celebrations from governmental locations.  I’m sure my faithful friends would be horrified, but I no longer believe Christmas is just about Christ, and seeing baby Jesus in a manager is no different than seeing Santa in a sleigh.  Christmas supplanted a pagan holiday, so is it all that strange that a secular Christmas has supplanted a religious Christmas?  Our society is about diversity and inclusion, so why not let the religious Christmas coexist with a secular Christmas?  I don’t believe in angels, but I like them, and I especially like movies with angels.  I value the concept of the separation of Church and State, but is a nativity scene really a religious endorsement in our modern commercial Christmas times?  Isn’t it closer to a holiday brand?

christmas-carol-1938-ghost-of-christmas-past

I love that we have a holiday based on giving and sharing, that promotes goodwill to all mankind.  That’s very positive and not particularly endorsing any religion when you think about it.  It is sad that Christmas has become a commercial holiday, but the underlying concept is still about giving, and that’s good.  Plus, helping businesses stay afloat and keep people employed is a positive concept too.  We’re a capitalistic society, so a commercial Christmas is the perfect holiday for our economic philosophy.  And isn’t giving a nice way to expand the GDP?

Wasn’t Christmas redesigned by Charles Dickens in the 19th century anyway?  Isn’t A Christmas Carol the real model for modern Christmas philosophy?  It’s sad to say, I think even the wonderful sentiment of Dickens is now being supplanted by Comedy Christmas – which makes me wonder what the holiday will be like in one hundred years.  I guess it’s sort of funny, but serious Christians want to restore the ancient traditions about the celebration of Jesus, and I want to maintain a mid-20th century traditional view of Christmas.  My concept of Christmas comes from these movies:

  • A Christmas Carol (1938) – with Reginald Owen
  • The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
  • The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942)
  • Holiday Inn (1942)
  • Christmas in Connecticut (1945)
  • It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
  • It Happened on Fifth Avenue (1947)
  • Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
  • The Bishop’s Wife (1947)
  • Scrooge (1951) – A Christmas Carol with Alastair Sim
  • White Christmas (1954)
  • A Christmas Story (1983) – a modern movie about a mid-20th century Christmas

Younger people today when they list their favorite Christmas movies pick films that are about the Christmas holiday such as Home Alone and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, but they seem to lack the sentiment of what I think Christmas is about.  Even the Christian Science Monitor lists Die Hard as one of their top Christmas films.  Really?!!! 

Thus, we have to accept that Christmas is constantly changing, mutating, and must I say it, evolving.  I think it’s interesting that many low-tech animated Christmas television shows from the 1960s have a retro popularity now.  I guess Christmas itself is always about looking backwards, and promoting a sentimental view of the past.  Sometimes a modern movie conveys this almost as well as my old favorites, such as the films Love Actually, and The Family Stone.  Even the comedy Christmas movies add moments of touching generosity between their crude gags.

Christmas is about reminding people they shouldn’t be Ebenezer Scrooge.  Does it matter how the message is delivered?  I can accept that some people like it with metaphysical trappings.  That’s cool.

JWH – 12/16/13

Accepting Reality

For most of the history of mankind, gods or God, explained reality.  God made us, the plants and animals.  Any event in nature, whether good or bad, was caused by gods or God.  Then science came along and explained rain, thunderstorms, earthquakes, eclipses, droughts, stars, planets, and so on.  When science explained the origin of animals and people, some religious people rebelled.

We now have people that reject science because they want to keep God.  They feel science is explaining away God.  I’m afraid they are right.  But instead of accepting reality and letting God fade away, like the gods before monotheism, they are rejecting reality.  When I was very young I rejected God and accepted science mainly because of the size of reality.  Reality seemed too immense to have been created by one being, especially one in our image.  Take a look at this video to see what I mean.

God was a great concept when our awareness of reality was small but once you realize the size of reality, age and scope, even at the limits of what we know now, that knowledge changes everything philosophically.  Humans can’t be the crown of creation.  We can’t be the center of the universe and the focus of God’s attention.  We can’t be special if we’re so small and insignificant.

So what is our place in the reality?  Years ago I would have asked, what is our place in the universe, but it appears our universe might be one of an infinity of universes, and this round of 13.7 billion years since the Big Bang, only a single bubble in a foam of universes.  Science now talk of the multiverse, but I prefer the term reality to encompass it all.

Humans are here in this vast reality by an accident of randomness.  We won’t always be here.  Reality existed before us, and it will exist after us.  Being here is the biggest miracle we’ve yet discovered.  It’s a miracle that outshines any miracle ever recorded in all of the religions of the world.

I think its time we reject the theory of God and start accepting reality for what it is.  Start asking questions about what existing in this vast reality means.  Becoming self-aware in this immense reality is a great opportunity.  Instead of destroying the Earth and committing species suicide we need to think about what we could become.  Don’t ask what is our purpose.  Under religion our purpose was to obey God.  Reality doesn’t work that way.  We each have to find our own purpose if we want one, but reality expects nothing of us.  We can’t have a personal relationship with reality.  Each of us is an awareness of reality, but most of us pretend we’re not here.

Erase all the past thoughts of religion and philosophy.  You just woke up in an unknown place.  Take stock in your surroundings.  You know that old saying, think global but act local – do the same for reality.  Our philosophy should be based on our best picture of reality.  Start with cosmology and work your way down.  Most people define reality by their very small personal delusions.  I say, any philosophy that doesn’t account for the size of reality dooms itself to a cockroach mentality.  A cockroach scurries about satisfying its personal urges unaware of its environment.  A cockroach does not know it’s in your kitchen because it doesn’t see the big picture.

There is only one human endeavor that tells us about reality, and that’s science.  I suggest starting at the top, and work down.  NOVA presented a wonderful four part series called The Fabric of the Cosmos hosted by Brian Greene based on his book of the same name.

Fabric of the Cosmos 1: What is Space?

Fabric of the Cosmos 2: The Illusion of Time

Fabric of the Cosmos 3: Quantum Leap

Fabric of the Cosmos 4:  University or Multiverse

Maybe there’s still room for religion in reality, I don’t know.  But any religion that ignores what we know about reality is delusional.

JWH – 2/11/12

You Are An Atheist

If there are a thousand different gods most people would be an atheist to 999 or 1,000 of them.  People only hate atheists who disbelieve in their god, and they never think about themselves being an atheist to other people’s gods.

Which leads me to believe that the dislike of atheists is not about disbelieving in a god, but hating people who don’t agree with you.  Most people who are insecure in their beliefs join groups of like minded people.  This reinforces their beliefs and makes them feel more secure.  The most insecure people will spend all their time trying to convert other people to believe the same way they do because it strengthens their view on reality.  It’s a mechanism for maintain sanity.

For these insecure folk encountering people who disbelieve what they believe hurts their confidence and insults them personally.  But they do not think about how their own disbeliefs hurts other people.  People who are riled the most by meeting an atheist, are often just as riled at meeting someone from a different political party, or even meeting a fan of another football team.

Few people are happy to believe what they believe and not be bothered at all by what other people believe.

Among Jews, Christians and Muslims who claim to worship the same exact god, there is no agreement and a lot of lethal animosity.  Which again makes me think it’s not about the deity but the sensitivity of believers.  If you asked the followers of the god of Abraham about the gods of Greece, Rome, Persia, India, China, or all the religions of the Americas and Africa what they think of those gods and they will flatly reject them all as superstitious nonsense in the same way as Dawkins or Hitchens dismiss their god.  They think nothing of being atheists to other people’s god, yet they puff themselves up about their own hatred of atheists.

What we really hate are people who disagree with us.  The trouble is some people hate this more than others.  Some people want to wipe out everyone who disagrees with their beliefs, or at least seek to convert the unbelievers.  It’s like that Paster Mike Stahl who wanted to create a national registry for atheists patterned on the registry for sex offenders.  Of course even that isn’t as severe as in some Muslim countries where they just kill the atheists or anyone that they think insults their god or prophet.

Why do they feel the need to do this?  If their god is all powerful can’t he handle unbelievers in his own way?  Like I said, it has nothing to do with gods.  It’s all about hating people who challenge your beliefs, no matter what they are.  In some cultures disrespect is a reason to fight or kill.

For the faithful, the strength of hating unbelievers is directly proportional to their own insecurities.

The problem is we don’t all think alike, and on some level we’re all atheists to other people’s beliefs.  We need a system to protect everyone from this war of beliefs.  That’s why the founders of the United States created the concept of separation of church and state.  And it’s why we don’t want Rick Perry and other political evangelicals leading a New Apostolic Reformation in the 2012 Presidential campaign.

These apostolic and prophetic folk are so insecure in their beliefs that they want to take dominion over the government of the United States, and if you disagree with them you’re an atheist.  This is pretty scary.  It’s just as scary to me if absolute atheists wanted to take over the government and outlaw religion.  Not all atheists are alike, and neither are all religious folk.  Us people in the middle have to always fear the extremes at both ends.

Citizens in the middle feel everyone should have their own beliefs and keep religion out of politics, whether we’re religious or not.  The trouble is if one extreme or the other tries to take control it will force everyone to take sides in a civil war of beliefs.  Do you really want that?  Even if you’re very religious, will you believe in the same way as the New Apostolic Reformation believers?

Like I said, atheism isn’t always about god, and sometimes believers in god will become atheists to other believers.

The solution to the problem is simple.  Never vote for anyone who campaigns on a religious agenda.  No matter how religious you are, you actually do want the government to be impartial and atheistic to all religions, otherwise it can’t maintain the concept of freedom of religion.

JWH – 9/5/11