Monday, May 28, 2007

God knows it's hard being an Atheist

I didn't see this coming; I've become one of those people who writes letters to The Age. A couple of weeks back I wrote a letter in response to some nutbar who felt that touring a piano around the world would do 'more harm than good'. This week, I wrote in to respond to an article attacking Richard Dawkins (author of The God Delusion and The Selfish Gene) for being a 'fundamentalist atheist'. Unfortunately, my letter was not published but they printed a letter which made essentially the same points so I was happy. Here's my letter:

It’s hard being an Atheist. We can’t get tax exempt status if we want to start a charity, we get less holidays and one of the few things that all religious denominations are united on is that Atheism is completely wrong. But probably the worst part about being an Atheist is having the same fatuous arguments thrown at us again and again about how incredibly plausible an invisible, omniscient god is (Fundamentalism, religious or secular, gets us nowhere, Margaret Somerville, The Age 28/5). Ms. Somerville implies that the existence of a god is equally valid a proposition as a godless universe. There is no evidence for the existence of a god whatsoever (And which god is the author talking about? Jehovah? Allah?
Xenu?). For the last time, the burden of proof lies with the person who makes the extraordinary claims. Proving the absence of something is ostensibly impossible. Personally, I believe in the existence of a teapot that orbits the Earth. It cannot be detected by instruments on Earth because it is too small. Prove that the teapot doesn’t exist and I’ll convert to a religious sect of your choosing. I also take offence at Atheism being described as a religion. Religious people just know they are right, usually in the face of conflicting evidence. Atheists are people who have looked at the available evidence and have tried to reach the most rational conclusion. We don’t know we’re right, we just think that there is so little evidence for the claims made by any and all religions that we probably don’t need a god as part of our worldview. This is the exact opposite of a religious mindset. We don’t want to spread Atheism at the point of a gun; we want people to reach these conclusions themselves so that we can live in a society in which the dangerous myths of religion have gone the way of Zeus, Poseidon and Thor.


Anthony said...

Personally I see atheism almost as deluded as any religion. As you mention yourself, you cannot prove something is not there, so how can you say that god does not exist. I think the smart way to conduct one's self is to announce yourself as agnostic. This is the position I sit in, although I heavily lean towards being an atheist.

You simply cannot say with absolute certainty that the majority of the world's population is completely wrong, although they probably are.
I find that most atheists are as close minded as the fundamentalists they poke fun at (boy isn't it fun)
So if you have to choose a path, choose one that has at least a little opening for the possibilty of a world extending past the physical.


karina said...

Ah, Rohan, you're blogging has brought a little grin to my face and a smile to Adrians, and of course the customary offering of a high five buddy!

A refreshing change to the intense religious folks I work with, two born again christians (oh god, why are you punishing me) and some incredibly scarily intense folks of other religions... Did I tell you about the "team building" excercise where we were all given a "fun" question to go up and ask people to "get to know them" mine was "who would you like to meet and why?" one guy I asked replied "God" and I thought, sure, I'd love to meet him/her/it too, hard to deny someones existence when you actually meet them... so I decided to finish the question, and asked him "why?" his eyes glazed over and he stared off into the distance. I walked off after about 5 minutes of this staring, it got kind of scary.

Anywho, I'm off the point, the point was, I tip my cap to you good sir.

dr. jack cambrian said...

anthony: Yeah, but why would you even consider the existence of a god as an option? There is simply no compelling reason whatsoever to believe in any god created by religion. If you're talking about a nebulous, non-anthropomorphic, 'force of nature' kind of entity, then I think that that is so far removed from what most people mean when they talk about 'god' that it shouldn't even be classed in the same category. Most people that believe in god do so because of the contents of books written thousands of years ago by uneducated desert nomads who were struggling to explain the complexities of existence with a fraction of the knowledge we possess today. I am a staunch atheist, but I am not close-minded. If I saw proof of god tomorrow I would have to concede his/her existence. Religious people, on the other hand, are faced with contradictions to their holy claims every day of their lives and yet they are the ones who possess absolute certainty in their beliefs.

karina: thanks. x-tians are indeed scary.

Roger said...

So… you're not a pastafarian, then? Or a frisbeetarian? They sure make sense to me.