Saturday, April 16, 2011

Oh God!

BenignO, Ben Kritz, and Better Philippines had a party while I was sleeping last night.

The discussion was about Atheism and apparently the discussion gave birth to at least two posts which I find good reads (as they are almost always good reads even if I don't completely understand them or completely agree with them).

BenignO wrote "Has Atheism become nothing more than the latest fashion statement?" and Ben Kritz wrote "Even Atheists Have Gods".  Better Philippines was part of the discussion but, so far, he hasn't come up with a post -- which I am sure will be equally thoughtful and thought provoking.

As Dean Jorge Bocobo might blurt out, I'd be playing the "dark log on an unlit road at night" here -- either because it wouldn't be obvious where I'd be coming from or because my intrusion into the discussion may not at all be welcome.

Here's what BenignO wrote and it's a pretty rich nugget:
So while science challenges us to step up to understand more as it reveals more, religion hides as much of the truth as possible so that we need work less at understanding less meaning. 
Where is God in either world view? If we use the God as defined by organised religion, then I’d answer that question by saying that he does not exist in either — not in science nor in religious faith. That leaves us with a God that we should define ourselves. And that requires a lifetime of hard work.
Here's something from Ben Kritz:
Even the most dogmatic Catholic who never offers a thought not dictated by Church teachings ultimately makes a choice to adhere to that particular set of beliefs. For an atheist to be a true atheist, he must suspend his capacity for the numinous and limit his thoughts to those that are concerned with survival alone. And he can’t do it, because even being able to visualize making that choice – imagining one’s self as something very different than he is now – requires numinous belief. 
Everybody has a god, and while changing to a different one is sometimes necessary, it should be a little more meaningful than just simply adopting a new label. You can do that with a new pair of pants, or by stopping for coffee at Gloria Jean’s instead of Starbucks for a change.

Almost any discussion on Atheism will feature a discussion on the existence of God or Gods or gods. There will be arguments proving that God/Gods/gods do not exist which are pretty good -- some of them are grounded on more esoteric branches of math, physics, and pure logic.  Disproving the existence of God/Gods/gods have already produced innumerable tomes of philosophical literature and my only claim to knowing what these great works say is that I've read a couple of Cliff Notes while I was in college -- and any memory of what I read about these great arguments have been blotted out the beer I drank when I passed the final exams.

So, what do I have to contribute to this discussion?  Nothing really.

In the cosmic scheme of things (meaning considering the vastness of all time and space) and considering the limitations of our capacity to perceive the cosmos, what can any human being really contribute to any discussion about the existence of God/Gods/gods.

Which leads me to what Dr. Manhattan in the graphic novel "Watchmen" said.
I'm disappointed in you, Adrian. I'm very disappointed. Reassembling myself was the first trick I learned. It didn't kill Osterman. Did you really think it would kill me? I have walked across the surface of the sun. I have witnessed events so tiny and so fast, they could hardly be said to have occurred at all. But you, Adrian, you're just a man. The world's smartest man poses no more threat to me than does its smartest termite.
Drawing from this, even the most clever figuring on the existence or non-existence of God/Gods/god wouldn't matter in the cosmic sense.  Our sun could unleash a humongous solar flare and decimate all sentient or near sentient beings on this planet, and then what would become of that clever thought when there is no one there to understand it or think it?

But that is not to say that it would not matter at all, because it would -- just infinitesimally so.

Even as a way of completely altering one's perception of the Universe, Atheism fails to be perfectly implementable  -- just like all other concepts. I only say this because I don't know of anyone, really, who can order his thoughts so precisely so as to be completely devoid of any concept of God/Gods/god and so order his perception to the point where the Universe would be completely different.  Perhaps if I'd find someone who was completely capable of doing this, I wouldn't be able to differentiate him from a very good bullshit artist or someone who is completely off their rocker.

Thing is, I know a lot more maladjusted people who are convinced that their minds are so vast and they can be pretty interesting when they try to prove they're smarter than everybody else.

But, this isn't to say that Atheism is useless or frivolous.

One great value that Atheism can teach is that there can be a locus or position from which we can consider all religions are just various systems that give order to the human universe -- alongside other systems that regulate other aspects of the human universe.  

To me, what my rudimentary understanding of Atheism does is to similar to what Copernicus did when he said that the Earth revolves around the Sun.  Atheism demotes religion as the giver of all values and rules, setting it side-by-side with systems that govern social relationships, economic relationship, political relationships, etcetera.

In fact, perhaps, from an Atheistic standpoint, if religion is no more than a method of controlling a population to serve the purpose of one individuals or a set of individuals, then we can probably invent a religion that would be more effective in creating a better society.  But, then again, I realize, that's just like saying people will change when you change the system of government -- because this assumes a culture where people follow the rules.

1 comment:

Ben Kritz said...

Just an observation from the rather spirited (no pun intended) conversation we wags have provoked -- people in general seem inclined to announce, stridently in some cases, what they do not believe, or why they think what someone else believes is wrong, but no one so far seems inclined to actually ask anyone else what they believe and why. We humans have a long way to go.

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