2008-04-22

Atheists Have Faith Too

Atheists, myself included, like to distinguish ourselves from the religionists by the fact that we base our opinions and decisions on facts, rather than blind faith in religious dogma. But some of us have faith too. It may not be based on blind adherence to religious dogma written thousands of years ago, or spouted by self-appointed spokespersons for god, but it is faith of its own kind.

Our faith is based on our own world view that is developed through our experience and sense of ethics and morality. It cannot always be backed up by hard facts.

For example, I “believe” that all people are inherently equal. I cannot back that up with empirical evidence. In many ways the evidence proves our inequalities. We are clearly not all as intelligent or as strong or as athletic or as healthy as everyone else. There are many ways of measuring our differences and inequalities. There is no way of actual calculating a persons total worth to compare it to others. And that is a good thing. For instead it allows us to decide that we are all of equal value and have an equal right to be here and are entitled to equal treatment and opportunities. And that makes for a better world.

I also “believe” that man, as a species, is essentially good. Many will disagree with that and provide ample evidence of bad deeds committed by people. There is no way of calculating the good and bad in men and women and comparing it. And that is a good thing. With a little deeper analysis we can see that much of the bad is a result of poor decision making rather than real malice toward others, and that the vast majority of people are capable of doing great good when given the means and opportunity to do so.

My last example is our basic values of what is right and wrong. For example, one of the most important ethical values to me is honesty. This value is not based on a cost-benefit analysis that shows I will benefit more from being honest than from being dishonest. It is simply based on an inherent sense of right and wrong.

Many of us do not base our sense of values on what we are told by religious leaders but on what we learn through life.

Above all, I “believe” and have faith that we all can build a better world together.

2 comments:

rossijskajafederazija said...

So you are actually more an agnostic than an atheist, aren't you ?

Considering oneself being an "atheist" might not be a very wise thing to do, it might be hazardous to your health. Why ? Well ... here are my "two cents".

a) Claiming to be an atheist puts you right next to Marx, who once said "religion is merely an opiate for the people". Opiates are drugs. Beware ... your neighbour "down south" might involve you in a "war on drugs".

b) Being next to Marx, who had a long beard, is dangerous for another reason as well. Muslim fundamentalists also wear long beards ... your neighbour "down south" might involve you in a "war on terror".

c) Being next to someone with a long beard, lets say "Santa Claus", is also dangerous. "Santa" wears a red coat and, as we all know, communists wear red coats also ... your neighbour "down south" might involve you in a "war on (neo-)communism".

So please avoid the term "atheist" in the English speaking world, for your own sake.

Follow "Santa Claus'" advice, migrate to Russia. There you can wear read coats, grow a beard, enjoy Marx and waste you thoughts on opiates as much as you like.

It won't get you into trouble ... it won't bring you to the "Gulag" ("Gulag" is the Russian language abbreviation for "Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp").

"Santa" now enjoys political asylum in Russia, still has his beard but now wears a blue coat. He now goes by the name "Ded Moroz" ("Father Frost").

On the other hand ... long beards (in Russia) are the "trademark" of the Raskolniki ... the "true believers" ... who definitely are no "atheists". Not even agnostics. But we can't have it all, can we ?

After all, you could also migrate to Germany ... we aren't as nice as the Russians are, but we have good beer ... Bratwurst & Sauerkraut ... and Heidi Klum.

To put this to an end, well, I sincerely apologize for this long comment, but I felt like adding my philosophical thesis as well. I hope you won't mind.

NB: ... btw ... I like your blog and I do envy you regarding your new Garmin GPS. I own the older model, with monocrome display and lesser accuracy (GPSmap 60). I haven't found anybody yet to co-sign the loan I need to purchase the new model. (Sniff)

Keep up the good work !

Best regards
Heribert

PSS: Should you discover typos or flaws in my spelling, you may keep them. ;-)

Ryan said...

Ugh. Dogmatic rationalism can be as violent and totalitarian as religion can.

You make a good point. You "believe" some things that can't be proven. Ironically enough though, your own belief that people are inherently equal can actually be traced back to the major religions, and isn't a fancy new concept that people who have discarded religion have been enlightened enough to attain. Looks like you and that bigot Saint Paul believe the same thing! But then again, you're the rational one, and because he derived it from the sacred scriptures and you likely derived it from a dead white guy like Thomas Paine or Rousseau, he was clearly the superstitious boob! Talk about an arrogant and patronizing attitude. You're right, you're different, and even better than religious people, in fact, anyone that disagrees with the enlightenment-derived scientific view of the world because you accept scientific rationalism, and they don't!

But my question is why do you give a flying fuck about what anyone else believes? Isn't it about actions? Who care if someone believes that there's a bearded old man in the sky if it calls them to stand in solidarity with the poor, like say, the Mennonites? Or calls them to respect all living creatures, like say, the Jains?