I've been beaten about the face and neck all morning about 'how religion is stupid'. It's got my creative juices flowing. This ain't a bash against any kind of belief structure, simply a rebuttal of the other argument. For a counterpoint of this, try going somewhere else.

-- Rant Mode ON --

It has been said that religion (also known as 'belief in god') is a way for Molly-coddled people to deal with existence. I respect that viewpoint; however, if you ascribe to that view, you must also entertain the possibility (at least momentarily) of it going the other way: that perhaps atheism is a crutch for weak people.

One or two outspoken individuals have said, among other things, that a belief in a higher power is simply put there for idiots: for people who cannot come up with their own image of existence and to make their decisions for them. That they need to justify their being here by proxy on another being.

But hows about we look at the other side?

Perhaps atheism is the same way -- put there because some people cannot deal with the idea that maybe they are not the most important thing in the universe. That maybe they are not so unique. And especially, because they can't deal with the idea that mankind isn't 'all that and a bag of chips'. Joe might not be so much in control of his life, and that scares the shit out of him.

You might be religious because you can't think for yourself; but I might be atheist because I am unwilling the believe that I am not the controlling force in existence.. or because I demand the freedom to not be judged.. or because I am unwilling to aspire to anything greater.. or because I just need to be different. It's the difference between introverted and extroverted nihilism. A religious zealot believes in "God" alone and a Strong Atheist believes in everything but. The same shoe on the other foot, really.


Am I religious or atheistic? Both. And I don't do either of them very well.

Perhaps atheism is ... because some people cannot deal with the idea that maybe they are not the most important thing in the universe

xunker, you are confusing atheism with solipsism. Atheism does not necessarily imply any exalted belief in yourself as light of the universe.

In fact, one may begin with the perception that the physical universe is all that exists, and that entire universe is nothing but matter and energy, moving under deterministic and probabilistic physical laws, devoid of any intrinsic meaning or purpose.

From there one may come to the conclusions that not only there is no divinity or spirituality in any of it, but that you yourself are nothing but a pile of atoms moving under those selfsame laws, and that the self and ego are delusions.

In short, grim atheism is not usually a crutch for the weak, it can be the discarding of an easy illusion, that which you want to exist but really isn't supported by any evidence, and this I assure you is not an egotistical act; living without the illusion of a safety net on the ego.

 

Jaez's writeup is for the most part excellent, but I disagree with the assertion that An atheist ... would deny belief in Him, even if shown proof he existed.

I think that the belief that there is no God is entirely compatible with a measure of open-mindedness. It is possible to have an opinion - even a strong one - based on the evidence at hand, and to also be able to accept new facts. Of course, an atheistic world-view does not regard most of the so-called evidence for God (e.g. "This book says so", "I really felt the presence of God", "Flowers are pretty", "I have faith" and "It would suck if there was no God") as anything of the sort.

The essential nature of atheism is denial
However, if you are an atheist, try to define your views in terms of what you are for, rather than what you are against. Saying "this is what I'm not" can only get you so far.

Because writeup does occasionally mean reply

The essential nature of atheism is denial, which is different to the kind of materialism, and the the scientific positivism put forward by StrawberryFrog, and also the (admittedly) solipsistic approach of xunker. While both of these are noble interpretations of the rationalisations that surround atheism, they don't deal with the central denial that is the necessary and sufficient condition for identification of an atheist.

Is atheism a crutch for the weak? Or put another way, why would one *deny* the existence of God? There is so much richness in that one word, deny, an entire spectrum of emotion, and whole vistas of personal psychological reasons that I think it's really beyond the scope of this writeup to cover them all. However I will point out that the denial takes place despite the much more moderate approach of agnosticism, which is much more in line with the kind of scientific revisionist principles extant today, which would allow one to keep an open mind on the existence of God. An atheist by contrast doesn't just deny the existence of God, but also in most cases would deny belief in Him, even if shown proof he existed.

Why is this? Surely it must make some critical difference to the person involved, otherwise they wouldn't take this stance. Personal experience has taught me that many of the atheists I know take up their positions either to escape from social nets in which a belief in God may trap you, or because they feel that at some point in the past their belief in God was shattered by a tragedy. There are rare cases of individuals growing up without any belief in God whatsoever, but one finds that they are usually tied to some sort of religious system that precludes a vizualisation of an overall force (some parts of Hinduism do this). In the first two instances, one could definitively say that the person is moving away from sources of strife, or in the latter case, personal pain. These are real motives, but have very little if anything to do with the scientific or logical validity of a belief in God. One finds that often, as the social networks become more open and tolerant, (ie their participants mature and learn not to evangelise), or that the pain of the personal tragedy is dissipated through therapy or personal growth that atheists tend to mellow.

The crucial point here is that the logic that would ordinarily convince a person of the validity of a/theism will not have any ground to stand upon unless the underlying emotional framework is stable and secure, and when it is, there is no longer any need to run away, and the person becomes open to all possibilities including the existence of God. In effect, they no longer feel the need to deny. That doesn't mean they feel the need to accept either, but again that's a personal choice. I would view atheists much as I would view evangelists, both sharing a need to define themselves by their denial of areas of common human experience and thus limiting and sharpening their own identities in their minds eye.

I guess when that image becomes untenable, then like people of all persuasions, religious or otherwise, they change.

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