Posted in Atheism, The Conscious Disbeliever

The Journey

The journey towards agnosticism and atheism is a personal and lonely one. It has been said elsewhere, we cannot control the things we believe in. As we gain experience and learn, our mind goes through a process of evolution. With this process our sets of beliefs change. Being a person who can read and has access to modern technology (…you are reading this blog on your computer, your tablet or smartphone), you by no means have the same beliefs as someone who does not have that privilege for example lets say the Mascho Piro tribe of amazonian Peru, who still cling to ancient ways.

As mentioned in another post, your heritage has a lot to do with your initial beliefs. Where you were born, the religion of your parents or lack of; start you off on this road. But at first the road is short and your horizons are very narrow. Once you start to acquire knowledge, the road will get longer and the extent will broaden you horizons. Many of the things you once did not know and had irrational answers to explain them become everyday common knowledge. Some of these doubts had been explained by religion. Or had they? Could it be that religion is only another way of naming ignorance? Humans in some parts of the world, long long ago used to believe that lighting flashed whenever Thor threw his hammer, and thunder crashed as his hammer tumbled against the clouds. That was the religious explanation. We now know that thunder is caused by the rapid expansion and contraction of the air that surrounds  a bolt of lightning.  This causes the air around the bolt to become very hot.  It occurs in less than a fraction of a second.  But, air cannot stay extremely heated for too long.  The heat is lost quickly through the air, causing  waves of compressed air that make the sound of what we know as thunder.  That is the scientific explanation in a nutshell. So, what we once took for granted as dogma, through the increase of scientific awareness has become common knowledge…Goodbye Thor. The more you learn the less you have need of fallacious explanations for natural events that happen around you.

As you cannot learn for me and I cannot learn for you, we have to do this on our own. And we each have a different speed for learning and coming to conclusions based on the newfound information. Of course we can share knowledge in form of books, magazines, videos, oral presentations or what not, but in the end learning from them is an individual process. We also have the chains of irrational restraints shoved upon us by religion. The eagerness with which we break them depends entirely on each person. Sad to say I took a very long time to come to this point and have seen youngsters arrive at the same point at an early age.

And, speaking of youngsters…

When is the proper time to talk to kids about agnosticism and atheism? When should we talk to our kids about our lack of belief in a deity? I for one have not been direct on the mater with my kids and have preferred to let them learn through example and not by direct counsel. I do not go to or take them to any church. They here me talk about religion and how I don’t believe in it. Surely they have heard me say I don’t think the existence of God is probable. I just have not asked them about what they think.  Maybe I am just chicken.

Should agnostics/atheists be proactive proselytizers? I think not. At least not in the sense of going door to door and asking  “Have you heard the good news?”  Many of you have heard this before and  been unfortunate enough to open the door and suffer to get rid of these people. However, I do believe that we should not be silent. We can no longer feel intimidated by a majority of religious people. It could be that their majority is not that big. The problem is that we are not as outspoken and others like us do not know that it is ok to be a non-believer. So we should express our opinions, insist on respect for our right to not believe in any deity and show others who have fears and doubts about coming out that there are many others just like them.

See you next time.

 

Author:

Family man, gamer, neurosurgeon, "Born Again 6.9 Atheist" and of course, Coffee aficionado

7 thoughts on “The Journey

  1. In response to the best time to talk to your children about your lack of belief in a Deity, I believe that conversations concerning religious beliefs should center around morality. The best course of action would be to discuss the fact that atheists and agnostics are led by their conscience, not by any type of dogma. I would make it clear that atheists are in no way anti-love, but rather pro-love. Just because we do not worship love does not mean we cannot express it, and in most cases atheists express love better.

    1. Atheists express love better? Source? That seems to be the opposite to what the science shows, if sociological and mental health outcomes are any indication.

      Even Dawkins has an article (in the Portable Atheist) where he says that religious people are “super nice”, for which he says we are also “super stupid” because he argues is irrational for atheists to behave in the same way. Of course, I don’t find his name calling convincing, but I think his point stands – it is irrational for an atheist to behave in the loving way which Jesus says we should.

      Why is Dawkins wrong?

      1. First of all thank you for your interest and you comments. It is nice for a budding blogger to start to have activity and discusson.

        Ethan talks of how to approach a discussion with our kids pertaining agnosticism/atheism, focusing on telling them that we have morals and can express love, even without a deity. I have never read a study that can confirm our capacity to express love better than believers. I think that it is Ethan’s personal point of view.

        Chucky refers to The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever Author: Christopher Hitchens Publisher: Da Capo Press ISBN: 0306816083

        In chapter 36, Richard Dawkins in the section Atheists for Jesus talks about how super niceness goes against the so called “selfish gene” theory. He says we all know people who are very kind and selfless; he goes on to state:

        “Human super niceness is a perversion of Darwinism because, in a wild population, it would be removed by natural selection.”

        From a strictly evolutionary standpoint being super nice is plain dumb. But it is a kind of dumbness that should be encouraged. In fact he talks of finding a way to infect people with this niceness, and looking for a way to make it endemic.

        Futher down the line he talks about how our big brains can subvert or pervert as you will the goal seeking mechanisms of the “selfish gene” and their Darwinian goals to other ends. You see we no longer live in the wild and are capable of obtaining satisfaction of or short term needs without resorting to instinct.

        “The big brain achieved the evolutionarily unprecedented feat of genuine forsight: became capable of caluculating long-term consequences beyond short-term selfish gain”

        I think that Dawkins set forth a paradox in Darwinian thinking. How can we be super nice and not be going against evolution? He goes on to give examples of how we do exactly this every day.

        I don’t think he is wrong, in fact he is correct in wanting to infect as many people as possible with niceness. As noted above, from the short term goal oriented selfish gene point of view, we should not be nice , as it goes against our interests. But even in the animal kingdom there are examples of kindness (or service) to other individuals as a means of helping the near family members to survive and so preserve the gene pool.Thanks to this evolution we can look beyond mere instict and see that in the long term point of view kindness is in our benifit.

        On the question of being irrational to behave in the loving way which Jesus says we should, well first of all we must ask ourselves if he even existed, let alone if he set down moral teachings.

        Allow me to end with this last thought:

        Morality and goodness are by no means the monopoly of the believers. The non-believing community has as much or even more moral capability and goodness as theists.

        Once again thank you very much for you comments and suggestions.

  2. A very interesting theme, about the kids. I preach with example, they can see I never Go to church (only in social events) I never say thing like god forbid and all that, when asked, I say I dont believe in god but at the same time I never criticize when one of them express her beliefs, each one of us must travel his or her own journey

  3. “From a strictly evolutionary standpoint being super nice is plain dumb. But it is a kind of dumbness that should be encouraged”.

    I think that this is an extremely reductive and short-sighted way to think about this. At one level, yes, selfish genes are duking it out, but there are many different things happening at many different levels. I think Dawkins is way too focused on his specialty here. I think there is a lot more happening at the level of group selection and culture. The causes of our actions and beliefs are a complicated web of nature and nurture. If it weren’t for the selfish genes we wouldn’t be here, but there are a lot of layers to reality and the genetic layer is just one of them. The psychologist Jonathan Haidt has a lot to say about this and I’m reading a book about moral psychology that he just released that I’ll be blogging about soon. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it when I do.

    I liked your post and I look forward to reading more from you in the future.

  4. True, it is oversimplifying, we are not just genes, but much more complex beings.
    In fact, we tend a bit to rely on our area of expertise when making assertions. It is a hard habit to get rid of.
    As you have stated in your philosophy : Wisdom comes from the variety of human experience.

    Thank you for your comments and be sure that I will be looking into you blog.

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