Tuesday, 20 October 2009

The Damnable Doctrine

Being an atheist should be no different from being a theist. We atheists aren't freaks, sub-humans, immoral scum, etc. We are just regular people. There's nothing special about being an atheist, perhaps other than to cut off an easy source of community.

The problem as I see it is that so many characteristics that are universal to humanity have been tightly coupled to the religious belief that seeks to feed such traits. It may be that as ideas, religious belief can fill a need for meaning and morality, but that doesn't mean that meaning and morality are religious ideas. God is a potential solution to the need for existential meaning, not a creation of it. In time, this distinction has been blurred so one cannot speak of one without the other.

This leads to what Dan Dennett calls "belief in belief", summed up so well by Voltaire "If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him." Yet this notion is ultimately backfiring in this multicultural society, especially one where more and more people are forsaking religion altogether. The fear now is that a godless society will be immoral, nihilistic with no regard for ones fellow. Each out to get their own, rampant individualism, and inevitably the breakdown of all sense of law and decency.

While not all hold this bleak outlook of a godless society, there still represents some curiosity about what it means to be atheist. The show aired on ABC TV a few months ago more than anything else cried out how little is understood by what it means to be human. All stemming from this fake notion that humans are defined by ideas, meaning that a categorisation of individuals into respective world views and dehumanising individuals based on what seems lacking in the ideas.

And atheism is very lacking, it is by its nature. It's describing people by what they aren't, so how can one possibly expect to talk about atheist morality without falling into a contradiction? I'll repeat this again, atheism is not a world view - it's the negation of theism. That's all.

There's nothing special about me, about where I get my sense of right and wrong, or how I find meaning. Yet because I don't have a religion, it's taken as if I'm somehow lacking as a human being. That I need to find an idea that gives me a reason to be good or makes life worth living. Not that these fall out of being human, it can't be that.

The inadequacy of this attempt to categorise people by their religious beliefs should cry out that a different approach to such matters is required. That one shouldn't accept the simple answer but should consider a introspective look at the big questions.

If we look at a body of water, we don't assume that the earth is round - it looks flat! Just as it looks like it is the sun orbiting the earth. It takes a deeper consideration than just looking at the appearance. Likewise it might seem like meaning is given by a divine source, but that's only the appearance. By looking deeper, there is something more profound that explains both the appearance and the reality.

It is a damnable doctrine that teaches otherwise, that teaches us to reject the human condition and define ourselves by our ideas. That there is something intrinsically wrong with being human. The failing is that universal features central to our being are passed off as divine hand-downs. Ergo this view means that the absence of belief is taken as being lacking something core.

The point I'm trying to make in all this is that there really shouldn't be anything alien about the notion of non-belief; that atheists share that same spirit of humanity that is all too often attributed to the gods. This kind of thinking is wrong, it has been shown to be wrong since the time of the ancient Greeks, it's time this damnable doctrine is cast aside.

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