Saturday, December 10, 2011

Why I Am An Atheist, or OMG, PZ Myers Knows My Name!

For those of you who might not be aware, PZ Myers has been running a feature on his Pharyngula blog on "Why I Am An Atheist", made up of user submissions on the topic.  Well, I sent him an e-mail a while back with my own reasoning, and it was posted today!  I've already seen how powerful the Internet can be based on this; someone I knew in college sent me a message on Facebook asking if that was indeed me.  He noted that he had considered submitting a response of his own, but had decided not to simply because PZ has received hundreds of entries for the feature.  I had no idea this person was an atheist; having gone to a Lutheran college, I suspected that atheists were rather rare.

If you aren't yet following Pharyngula, I highly recommend it.  PZ is an amazing writer, and his talks are also quite good.  I'll admit that the first time I heard him, his voice wasn't nearly as gruff as I'd expected, but on further reflection, it just adds to the impact that such a nice guy can be so open and direct in his opposition to religion.  With any luck, I'll get a bit of the "Pharyngula effect", and have a traffic bump to In Awe of Everything. :)  Here's a copy of what I wrote, but go ahead and give PZ the traffic by going there to check out the comments.
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Interestingly, one of my friends just pointed me to a question from a pastor he knows, who was asking “why are you not a Christian?” I wrote this up, and felt it would be good to send along.
If you’d like to know why I’m an atheist, its because I am also a skeptic. Atheism is in a way an application of skepticism; I only believe that which has convincing evidence, and there is no convincing evidence for the existence of a divine being. The god proposed by every major religion is a supernatural god; even religions like Buddhism that do not promote a god do promote the supernatural in various ways. But through science, the study of the world around us, the observation of reality, we see absolutely no evidence of the supernatural. Everything fits, everything follows the rules. There is no E that does not equal mc^2, no F that does not have an equivalent MA. The universe appears exactly as it should if the only forces at work were those of the elementary particles of matter responding to the laws of nature. Its possible that there is a god of some kind, but its highly unlikely, and there is no evidence that any god affects reality in any way.
Why I am not a Christian is a little more specific. I was raised as a Christian, going to church every Sunday at the United Church of Christ. But as I grew older, and learned more about the religion I was following, it simply stopped making sense. Every time the Bible, and therefore god, made verifiable statements about the nature of reality, and even most of the time when it made statements of historical fact, it got it wrong. And very importantly, the god being described didn’t actually seem very loving. He demands worship and obedience, he demands that we bow before him, and tells us that we’re sinful creatures that must beg his forgiveness for not being perfect, despite the fact that supposedly he created us. As Richard Dawkins put it in The God Delusion, “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” He set the default state for the afterlife as eternal torture; how could a god who willingly sent most of his supposedly beloved children to hell be good? If there is a god, and an afterlife, and that god sits in judgement, then here is how I see it. If god is just and kind, then he will judge me on my works, not whether I believed in him. If god judges me on whether I believed in him without any evidence, then he is not just and kind, and thus isn’t worthy of worship anyway.

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