My thoughts on faith, religion… whatever. Controversial topic to some people, or to most people? Kind of like how much you get paid in Finland. I don’t think so. I speak about both issues freely, sometimes to the chagrin of others.
I’ll start by telling one of my favorite anecdotes. When our son was born prematurely (on week 27), we were at the ICU for weeks, because he didn’t really have any lungs to speak of, and was kind of the size of a carton of milk anyway. He made it fine, to those not in the know, but still, it was touch and go for weeks.
While they were doing sterile operations, like changing incubation tubes or other such stuff, parents were asked to leave the ward and go to a waiting room. The room had a TV, a couple of sofas, a guestbook (filled with the most horrific and the most brilliant stories). Just a room to spend half an hour in while you couldn’t be with your child. One day in the waiting room, we were joined by a middle-aged woman. We talked for a moment, and then she asked, as an aside, if our son had been “emergency-baptized” as soon as he was born prematurely. Apparently, this is something where your child is baptized right away by a priest or whoever, so that if the child dies, his/her soul goes to heaven. A kind thought, but since neither of us, the parents, belong to any church or subscribe to any system of belief, we answered “No, our son has not been baptized”.
What does this charming example of the human race do? She stands up, fire in her eyes, and nearly shouts “Your child is going to hell!”. She then promptly storms out of the room, leaving us, literally, gasping.
I had no words for the situation. Now, mind you, i wasn’t a “new” atheist or agnostic (more on this later) at this point, so i wasn’t stumped by her reasoning. I was simply amazed that someone would do this at a children’s ICU-ward. I rarely have good comebacks when people say something “smart”. I’m also not a violent person by nature, though, if i could go back, i would probably beat the everliving crap out of her for the sheer fun of it.
So what made her do it? Her religion. Her beliefs. Her conviction. She was absolutely sure that an unbaptized child will go to hell. She was not angry at our child, but at us. The non-believers. We had, with our ignorant actions, condemned this poor young-soul to hell. How dare we?? We had no right. I saw this.
But then, I don’t feel pity for people like this. I feel hate. Anger. That’s the kind of person I am. So sue me.
Uh okay. So what do i believe in? I don’t believe in a god. Or gods. Or the Bible, or the Koran, or the Talmud or anything else of that sort. I believe in science. I believe in scientific methodology. By definition, that makes me an atheist. Something that is counter to the theist idea, that include belief in a god or gods. I do however accept that there are things we do not understand. That doesn’t make it supernatural, or imply the existence of a mythical god-figure. There may very well be a force beyond our current understanding, that manipulates what we perceive as reality. But it still doesn’t make it a god. It just makes it something that we do not yet have the terminology or science to grasp.
Atheism, to me, is not a belief system, though a lot of people want to say it is. It’s a way of thinking based on rational thought. I don’t believe there is no god, i know there is no god. It’s the difference between belief and knowledge. I think that sums Atheism well enough for me.
Then what is science really? It’s a current best guess. Theory, based on theory, based on experiment, based on theory. We’re constantly revising what we know, because we accept we are not perfect. We accept that we know a humble tiny little piece of how the universe works, and we’re trying our best to figure things out. Some theories last longer than others. We do not need absolutes, just current estimates and theories.
Religious people work with absolutes, as far as I’ve been able to understand them. An age old adage says, “If you could reason with religious people, there would be no religious people”. If there’s something you don’t understand, you consider it, ask other people, look at other angles and so on. Or do you just say “no, god did it”. Or “god works in mysterious ways”. That’s just a piss-poor way of saying “I don’t want to understand” or “I don’t need to understand”. “These things are not meant to be understood by me.” You’re essentially saying you are too stupid to understand how things work, and that you’re okay with it. If that’s okay for your, to not be able to reasonably look at things then… I’m very sorry for you.
I used to think that I’m an agnostic. An agnostic does not make up his mind, but waits for evidence to either side before making up his mind. But since there is not conclusive evidence toward either side; and how could there ever be conclusive evidence, ever in an issue as complex as this, you don’t make up your mind. But this is pretty much a cop-out, as I’ve come to understand it. Even if there isn’t evidence that conclusively proves that there is no god, can i really honestly accept that possibility? Can i honestly accept into my world a supernatural being that created and controls everything? No. I can accept a force beyond our current understanding that may to the uneducated mind seem omnipotent. But anything can be explained through science. Just not current science.
So I’ve perhaps come to understand that I’m purely an atheist. If i need the label at all. But i definitely don’t accept the possibility of a deity of any kind. The mere concept is ludicrous.
So what about the afterlife. Dying. Creation? Evolution? Let’s look at my thoughts on these issues.
When you are born, in fact, before you are born, your consciousness is born. This can be proved by looking at EKG from a fetus. At some point, when enough stem-cells have been tasked to form brain cells, a chemical process happens which triggers electrical activity in the clump of cells that will be your brain. They will eventually take over involuntary and voluntary functions that you need to survive and act. The fetus will move it’s hands. It will kick. It will toss and turn. When the child is born, these will be augmented by a whole host of amazing feats that us humans take for granted.
We know there is electrical activity happening in the human body. When you die, this activity eventually ceases, within 24 hours or so [uh edit here, after the brain stops getting oxygen, it stops working after a few minutes or so]. Don’t quote me on this, by the way, but let’s say that for the sake of conversation at the moment. According to physics, energy doesn’t go anywhere. It may transform, but it exists just the same. You burn a log and you get heat. Same way, the energy that kept you going has to go somewhere. It may just dissipate into the surroundings, or the tissue, or it might do something else. There’s no evidence for any of this, so it’s just speculation. As far as we know, when you die, you cease to exist. You don’t conceive anything anymore. Ergo, there is no afterlife, because there is no you there to comprehend it.
Creation..well can we just put this to rest already? It’s 2011. If you believe a magic fairytale-guy created the world by thinking about it in a week, or even thousands of years, you’re crazy and you should be institutionalized. There is enough conclusive evidence to say that the universe was created some 13.7Ga ago, and we have visual evidence of other solar systems that are in the process of forming planets to say that this didn’t just “snap into existence through some magical fucking being”. It’s still an ongoing process that we have the privilege to study and look at.
As for life, well, we’ve already created ‘artificial bacteria’ in labs. We’ve created something that wasn’t created through natural process. Sure, we haven’t yet simulated how life came to be from a goo of amino acids, water and various elements, but we have enough supporting evidence to say this is exactly what happened. We have evidence for evolution. Sure, there are holes in a number of species and how they came to be, but that doesn’t negate the other, valid evidence that we have. We can point to a rock or a fossil and say with a high degree of certainty that it is n years old.
And because our knowledge of evolution isn’t complete, as few things are, it’s still just a theory. And that doesn’t bother me in the least. It can be a theory as long as it has to, but theory doesn’t make it any less real than something written in a book 1800 years ago. Theory just means we don’t fully understand everything, so we make certain hypothesis based on research and empirical evidence, until we can fill out the gaps with enough confidence. Which we may never! And that’s the great thing about science.
I don’t get scared of the unknown, i take it as a challenge. I want to learn more. I don’t settle for explanations that take away an amazing process, and instead explains the end result as magics created by some guy in the sky?
One of my favorite quotes is ‘Epicurus’ Trilemma’ (paraphrased by me and summarized by David Hume) :
If God is unable to prevent evil, he is not omnipotent
If God is not willing to prevent evil, he is not good
If God is both willing and able to prevent evil, why is there evil?
This is the best god damn evidence that there is no god. If you want to worship a god that is petty and childish or downright evil, like a child killing ants with a magnifying glass.. well..