Eat Lard


The Atheist Manifesto

Δεν ελπίζω τίποτα. Δε φ, οβʊμαι τίποτα. Είμαι λεύθερος.    

‘I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free.’ – Inscription on the tombstone of Nikos Kazantzakis

 

Prelude

You presumably believe in something. It is possible that we differ in these beliefs. While the particular question of whether you are right or I am wrong is clearly not getting a conclusive or persuasive answer in a hurry, it makes sense to, you know, understand the nature of our differences and perhaps where our conflict if at all, may lie. A highway code if you will. Learning the signs and the basic flow could help us, both, avoid painful collisions and looking like right idiots.

 

A confession first. As far as I am aware of, atheists are not syndicated. It is likely that this manifesto would only apply to a few of us.

 

Some of us are agnostic. Boom. Boom.

Guess what, it seems these questions of deities, afterlives, creation, are a little tricky. And we have to put our hands up and go: you know what,  I have no clue how to prove there isn’t a god. It looks like this one will go to the judges. But hey, for everyday purposes, I’m going to stick to the premise that there isn’t one. It makes sense to me; and you know, should overwhelming evidence present itself to the contrary, I would be more than glad to re-evaluate my position. Your contribution here is minimal unless you can produce that evidence. And please, please don’t hand me a piece of your scripture or even WORSE, some damned leaflet written by a complete yokel for whom ‘Bible Belt’ is both a home town AND what they keep their trousers tied up with.

 

Some of us are not un-examined lives.

70 percent of my class inherited daddy’s faith along with the used car business and the mysogeny. Eating chalk between classes, demonstrating sheep-like cognitive functions and an otherwise complete lack of personality kept them off the radar of the more vicious and punitively inventive of our teachers. 

 

A few of us were getting into trouble with Jesuit priests for asking them what existentialism meant. And for arguing the question that was the hairline fracture that lead to the final schism from the beliefs of my fathers: ‘Why is faith needed for redemption? Isn’t my Buddhist friend, who leads a good life as deserving of the embrace of a just God?’

 

The chief questions that troubled my gangly colleagues at this time was: ‘does it show that I am a compulsive masturbator?’ and ‘how long is it before the blindness/anemia sets in?’

 

Soon after, as my friends embarked on a voyage of self discovery with the opposite sex, their genitals and extra strong beer, some of us weren’t that hot with the ladies. So we read. Of Descartes’ failed attempt to prove the existence of a God in Meditations of First Philosophy; of Heller rail against a God in a world gone mad in Catch-22; of  Satre’s protagonist secure an abortion for his mistress… no doubt still smoking Gauloise and looking cool.

 

We also debated. Entire coffee and tobacco harvests have been laid waste in our earnest late night discussions, musings and dialogues. Were searched for Gods, Justice, Goodness, Values, and mostly Truth. We spoke with the smartest people we could find, with the disinterested and zealous; with the godless and devout; priests and madmen. And now, here, our choices and ideas are not those of the unexamined or unquestioned mind. Nor are we afraid of our ideas being picked apart or questioned. We are the product of our journey and our ideas have developed and changed as a function of it.

 

So if you want to be the next leg in my explorative journey, do better than a patronizing smile and a ‘why don’t you want to read my leaflet?’. Otherwise, my guess is that you discovered religion late, right after you gave up the compulsive chalk eating; probably though your personal difficulties or the fear of mortality, loss or isolation and think the rest of us are late starters too. If I’m refusing to engage you, it’s because frankly, I think you are going to waste my time. I’m really OK with you calling this arrogance. Which it isn’t; but frankly, your premise that I am a blank book, unexamined and intellectually inert, is.

 

We don’t think all of you are stupid. Just some.

No. Honestly. We do not think you credulous or stupid by virtue of your beliefs alone. Unless you are a Scientologist or Mormon. There’s really no way I can broaden my definition of beliefto include people who believe what they read in paperback sci-fi. That’s not a belief. That’s a condition. Like the guy who fell on his head and now thinks he’s a tomato. 

 

Nevertheless and notwithstanding, the intelligent and accomplished have had unshakable faith in the divine. It is possible that individuals who commanded respect and awe, or others who thought, said and did the fantastic, would have not evaluated their beliefs; that they would have accepted the faith of their fathers without choice or analysis. But we would find this uncharacteristic and irreconcilable with our idea of them. Your belief is neither offensive nor laughable to me. Really. Here’s me not laughing at Jehovah’s Witnesses.

 

Science is not God.

Philosophers have a really tough time with the Scientific Method. Thomas Kuhn argued convincingly in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions that science was not a linear process of the accumulation of knowledge, rather a set of crises which forced ‘paradigm shifts’. Suddenly, the scientific method was full of dispute and speculation. It wasn’t the simple, incremental, rigorous, unbiased process it was purported to be.

 

Meanwhile, we had lots of trouble with crows. Karl Popper took induction apart, the logical basis of observation, leaving no logical argument in favor of it but that it works till it doesn’t.Inductive logic, which says that having observed black crows all our lives, we expect the next crow we see to be black is as unjustified as the counterintuitive process saying ‘well the next one must not be black.’

 

So if you think that you’re on to something by exploiting your perceived difference between a ‘law’ and a ‘theory’ as your masterstroke against Natural Selection, well guess what, ALL OF SCIENCE is THEORY. And none of it, say the philosopher, is truth.

 

We have beliefs and values.

That bridge I’m about to drive over? Is it going to crumble while I’m on it? Did I know the man who built it? Designed it? Do I trust the physics to hold up? The materials? You know what, the guy in front just made it across. What the hell. Guess I will too. We believe in things, both spiritual and not. Your assumption that my mind is an anarchic wasteland, where I believe in nothing but what I have evidenced, is wrong. We have belief structures. In fact for some, the non existence of a god is a premise we accept without rigorous proof, i.e. a belief.

 

“How important is it for a candidate to have STRONG religious beliefs, regardless of whether those beliefs are the same as yours? Is it very important, somewhat important, not very important, or not at all important?” CBS News Poll. June 26-28, 2007

           

.

   

Very
Important

Somewhat
Important

Not Very
Important

Not at All
Important

Unsure

   

%

%

%

%

%

 

ALL reg. voters

27

36

16

20

1

 

Republicans

43

35

12

7

3

 

Democrats

23

35

19

23

0

 

Independents

20

36

17

27

0

 

In the great Democrat litmus test recently Senators Obama and Clinton showed that both a Woman and Black was conceivable and realistic as a choice of the American people’s Chief Executive. But polling numbers above have ruled out a non-religious President of the United States. It’s not surprising therefore that ‘Shares our Values’ is a consistent and accurate measure of a voter’s personal preference for a candidate.

 

Despite the popular idea that values must be religious, I ask you, is it hard to imagine that atheists have values and make conscious choices to live by them? That our values should differ, like our belief structures do is expected, but that they stem from choice, experience and commonsense is so hard to imagine?

 

In the end, I must admit my personal search for the divine was spurred by my firmness for the very values i am suspected of not having. Having my question above on the necessity of faith for salvation answered in a manner I saw as unjust, I made a decision:

 

I rather be in a hell with friends I knew to be wonderful, warm, exemplary people than in a heaven in the shadow of an arbitrary and unfair god.

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8 Comments so far
Leave a comment

This is absolute quality!!

Comment by N

Brilliant!!! I love it…

Comment by Sean

Cheers, N, Sean,

Reading over it again, I’m aware that this piece is probably written less well than the others, but writing it was almost a process of catharsis. :) Glad it’s brought a smile of recognition to you…

Aasvogel

Comment by aasvogel

“I rather be in a hell with friends I knew to be wonderful, warm, exemplary people than in a heaven in the shadow of an arbitrary and unfair god.”

You are now my favourite blogger.

Comment by Theena

[...] would not vote for an atheist.   The results indicate the belief that at least, non-believers do not reflect the majority belief system and at worst, non-believers are [...]

Pingback by William & Mary ACS » Blog Archive » Progress on Another Front?

Just how does one determine the parameters for ‘arbitrary and unfair’, with or without God… ?? like to know.

Comment by Rasika

We’ll i suppose with a god, you’d use the value system associated with the god, regardless of whether it was ethical by any other standard, the way kierkegaarde argues Abraham’s attempted sacrifice of Isaac is murder and hence unethical even though divinely sanctioned and demanded.

Without a god, the ethical can either be the universal (what is good for all) or statiscally established (what is good for most) or simply individually determined and decided. It may establish from background sources like the prevalent attitudes towards alternative sexuality, inculcated values or even a once adhered to doctrinal belief system like my now lapsed catholisism.

FOr the godless, the parameters exist, and for some they move within their frames of reference, but for others they may stay fixed. But that is also true for those ‘deistically oriented’…

Comment by aasvogel

I would find STRONG religious belief to be a detriment in someone i was voting for.

people with strong religious beliefs tend to want to push their religious agenda and morals, and those who get into politics even more so.

Comment by Suchetha




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