Friday, March 8, 2013

Why do atheists have to be so bitter?


Image courtesy of BJWOK at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A blog post about atheism got me thinking. I really don't remember where I read it: if I do, I'll add a link. It started with a quote about belief by Woody Allen that I can't remember, either. 

So, I'll quote my philosophy text book instead - Atheism is rejection or absence of the belief in God. Atheism is not the knowledge that God doesn't exist, it is just another belief. Considering how 'cool' atheism has lately become, there are many atheists out there now but very few who understand this. Instead, you find people bashing each other, intolerantly professing their disdain for that irrational belief in God and all the name calling, which just really gets on my nerves, "Dawkins", "Darwin", "Evolution", blah. Unless you actually worked with Darwin to figure out how ape turned to man and all that, unless you saw the proof yourself (as opposed to reading about it.) it's not a fact for you, it's just a belief. You may believe in evolution, you may believe in Darwin, you may believe in science; you couldn't possibly be sure of any of it.

Sure, all these religious fanatics have ganged up and led wars and mass murders and what not throughout history, but that was because of their intolerance, not their belief. It's not like atheists are very tolerant, either. They try to force their beliefs down people's throats, act very bitter, smug and smirk and laugh at the God-worshippers, and pretend to have had some sort of a great epiphany, a revelation that puts them above the theists, much like the moral high-ground established by the theists. Here's something Karen Armstrong (author of The Short History of Myth, a delightful book) has to say about God, and the same applies, I think, to atheists:

“If your understanding of the divine made you kinder, more empathetic, and impelled you to express sympathy in concrete acts of loving-kindness, this was good theology. But if your notion of God made you unkind, belligerent, cruel, of self-righteous, or if it led you to kill in God's name, it was bad theology.”

The problem is not religion, the problem is intolerance. Your need to make everyone agree with you; that's what causes all the trouble, irrespective of where your faith lies.

All these debates pro and contra God made me realize that people don't really understand the importance of an irrational belief. There was something in The Short History of Myth that I'll have to rephrase - When it comes to mythology, whether it happened or not doesn't matter, it is how effective the myth is that matters. Everyone has a different way of dealing with things, and each way is correct for that person. If believing in God helps you sleep peacefully, get up every morning and live, then who am I to tell you it's wrong? If the thought that "God will protect them" gives someone strength, why is it silly? Believing that my bike won't stop functioning in the middle of the street, I won't have an accident, helps me get out of my house every day. People drop dead on the road all the time, but my belief (in what? science, statistics, someone else's "proof") stops me from hiding under my bed. 

An atheist and a theist are about to go into surgery. The atheist has read that the chances of that surgery failing are minuscule, knows the doctor has three specializations from some fancy university, is certain that he won't bleed out on the operation table, because someone has assured him it rarely happens. The theist prays to God every day, has performed all the necessary rituals beforehand and knows God will respond by keeping him safe. They are both beliefs, equally irrational and in this terribly unpredictable world, equally essential.

4 comments:

  1. The last para reminded me of this xkcd comic (http://xkcd.com/795/ ) , which goes to show that the theist might fare a little better in your story. :)

    I think you missed a key difference between the two systems. From what I understand, scientific theories have to be 'testable' before we can even call them that. The strength of relativity is that wacky as it sounds, it has been verified without exception over the last century.

    Of course this is not to say that this makes one better than the other. Only a fool would discount the merit of 'Harry Potter' on the grounds that magic isn't real.

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    1. Haha, well thanks for that link!! :) Point is, for reasons of their own (why care what they are) both of them are able to go into surgery without completely freaking out!!

      You're right, there is the difference; it's just that I don't think it matters. I mean, to defend their religious beliefs, people may go so far as to refuse to accept that just because something cannot be / has not been tested, it is less plausible to be true. And that would be just as odd, as to think that that which has not been tested yet, could never be tested and proved correct. So it irritates me when someone goes, "Please.. God does not exist." You never know. Both types of belief seem just as silly!

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  2. Phoebe had the right idea all along!

    PHOEBE: Ok, look, before you even start, I'm not denying evolution, ok, I'm just saying that it's one of the possibilities.

    ROSS: It's the only possibility, Phoebe.

    PHOEBE: Ok, Ross, could you just open your mind like this much, ok? Wasn't there a time when the brightest minds in the world believed that the world was flat? And, up until like what, 50 years ago, you all thought the atom was the smallest thing, until you split it open, and this like, whole mess of crap came out. Now, are you telling me that you are so unbelievably arrogant that you can't admit that there's a teeny tiny possibility that you could be wrong about this?

    ROSS: There might be, a teeny, tiny, possibility.

    PHOEBE: I can't believe you caved.

    ROSS: What?

    PHOEBE: You just abandoned your whole belief system. I mean, before, I didn't agree with you, but at least I respected you. How, how, how are you going to go into work tomorrow? How, how are you going to face the other science guys? How, how are you going to face yourself? Oh! That was fun. So who's hungry?

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    1. I find it insulting that you felt the need to quote this. I may not be a Soniya or a you, but hey, I know my Friends.

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