Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Devout Atheist

Just for kicks, I decided to label myself as a 'devout atheist', which is an oxymoron - being 'devout' is meant for people of faith, and an atheist symbolizes the lack of it. Surely they cannot co-exist?

It might, since there are varying semantic interpretations of 'atheist' itself. Some defines an atheist as 'an active disbeliever in god'[1] - which sounds ridiculous, because it exactly describes what the religions do: actively promoting a faith, in this case the faith that 'god doesn't exist'. How is this any different to having 'an active belief in god (or the Flying Spaghetti Monster)' itself?

The background to the atheist's mindset is based upon the fact that god's existence is unprovable - nobody has yet been able to scientifically witness and/or peer-review the presence of god. Yet we have to give it a benefit of a doubt, because we cannot disprove that the possibility exists: the rule 'you cannot prove a negative' applies.

But even so, what sets the atheist apart, is while he is certain about the unprovability of god, he does not see the need to hold onto a belief that god is, or will be provable (or not). Given there are an infinitely limitless number of things that are unprovable, the atheist, unlike the theist, does not arbitrarily chooses or selectively accepts the presence of one god, while discriminating the others. The atheist accepts all gods as equally unprovable, and unlike the agnostic, has no need for beliefs in any or all them. Yet, that does not preclude him from changing his mind, when there is evidence that proves otherwise.

'An atheist is always willing to change his mind should convincing evidence of God actually come to light'

- Stephen Hawkings

So by definition, I am an atheist, but what is with the 'devout' part? The lack of beliefs does not indicate I reject the values espoused by most religions, and certainly doesn't mean that I am opposed to it. In most cases, I am happy with many tenets that most religions share; they are generally good codes of conduct to live by for a harmonious society to function anyway.

"The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish."

- Albert Einstein

As childish a religion may be, childishness is also attributed with to the connotation of fun. That quality of fun, while considered as trivial for someone as great as Einstein, is something that general mortals relish in, and in some ways a representation of our society today. There is too much history that is related to religion that's pervasive in our way of life; without it, we would have lost a fair amount of art, literature, music and culture that we know of. If atheists do rule the world, what is it will they be replacing that void with?

The only thing I'm dead set against religions on, is of the absolutism and fanaticism of some individuals toward their beliefs - their assertions that 'I'm right and you're wrong', when it comes to their god - only theirs is the sole representation of truth. They choose to live and die by their faiths, consuming them where their existences are solely defined and dictated by religion alone. This is when the irrationals and the insane arise.

Even though I am weary of religion, I consider myself 'devout' as an atheist, for even with my lack of need for faith, there shouldn't be a need to pass judgement on others' need to believe. To promote atheism and denying the need for faith in individuals where they rely upon as an emotional crutch, or as a means of keeping themselves from straying into their bad side, is no better than proselytising religion itself.

Practitioners of faith may appear Machiavellian, but the trade off is to be able to keep society functioning in a relatively good order. A world full of atheists without good moral sense is no better than having no religion at all: there is nothing that stops them from being guided by only their own selfish needs. Religions should be viewed as a bootstrap for getting to the atheist's state of self-realisation - sure, only some will get out of that dreamy, 'religious state of mind', but ultimately one will come to appreciate atheism to be a 'beautiful thing' only when he arrives to that conclusion himself.

[1] The usage of 'god' should be gods. In this case, I mean any god, rather than the singular God from the monotheist's perspective.


marc said...

Do you accept the notion that the word "devout" can be used with either one of two senses, those two senses either "being of a theistic nature" or "being of a sincere nature"? While reading a list of synonyms for the word "devout", I have found such to be the case.

Anonymous said...

Hahaha. Science is a religion, philosophy also a religion, they believe in one god, which is reason. And this god "reason " is impersonal absolute, man needs to put big faith on this religion. their belief are, I m my own law, I handle my own future, I can change myself, universe is in me. I know myself 100% , i have sufficiency to know who I am, where I'm from, what I'm here for and where will I go. I know I will not have cancel, I will not die I'm cancel, my family will not die in cancel, because eveything is under my plan, I presupposed everything, my will is higher than my will. Now, this is sound reasonable for me as a atheist, if not ,I fooling myself.

Anonymous said...

I also refer to myself as a devout atheist and I think you make a mistake in your blog that is similar to the arguments used by people who follow a religious faith. Specifically, assuming that it is possible that atheists are more likely to not have good moral sense.
In my opinion atheists have just as good a moral sense as followers of religious faith, if not better. For example, the large majority scientists are atheist, for obvious reasons, and yet many scientists devote their lives to improving the world that we live in with medicine, technology, education, entertainment, transport, etc.
Conversely how many priests have recently been proved to be paedophiles or sexual predators? And the catholic church has covered up for how many offenders?
Fatwa and Jihad? Assassination and war in the name of religion?
When atheists are morally good it is because of their own moral standards, their education and their upbringing, not fear of the consequences in an 'afterlife'. I know who I would rather have helping me.

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