Rational Atheism

 

Disciples of Wrath love to portray atheists as god-hating decadents. This is a convenient demonization which avoids confronting legitimate criticisms, such as religion’s history of superstition, bigotry and violence. Disciples of Anti-wrath are more inclined to think of rational atheists (and agnostics) as closer in spirit than religious zealots. 


religion & history rational atheism

 

The Enlightenment emerged from a dark period of Christian history. It is important to remember what medieval religion looked like before the penetrating light of critical thinking was cast upon it. 

 

During the Dark Ages, the well-run and regulated Roman Empire had declined along with the general level of literacy and security. Church authorities called upon a surprising ally to terrify sinners into obeying the commandments of the Church. Satan was exploited to compel Christians to run away from sinful temptations. The program of demonic threats created a climate of terror that is familiar to the modern world.   When communism was identified as the source of all evil, communists and their sympathizers were suddenly everywhere.  The accused were willing to accuse others.  Hysteria escalated into a witch hunt.

 

During the 15th and 16th centuries the number of witches burned was ‘relatively small’ (50,000 – 100,000) but the number of witches suspected and accused was unbelievably large.  Inquisitors knew that most accusations were false and based on nothing more than quarrels between neighbours. Skeptics saw that the witch hunts were driven by human vindictiveness rather than a demonic plague. The terror of the Inquisition was followed by the horror of the Protestant Reformation, which killed millions.  

 

Anyone appalled by the violence of Islamic terrorism will understand why the Enlightenment was opposed to religious fanaticism.  Disciples of Wrath who denounce secular humanism must explain why millions of deaths should not teach a lesson.The modern world should be grateful to skeptics that western democracies no longer burn witches and murder neighbours who do not share their faith. 

 

Atheism has no official credo (there is no atheist Pope to make official pronouncements regarding the atheist belief system) and there is no such thing as orthodox or unorthodox atheists. Atheism, like the Gospel of Anti-wrath, is a personal choice made for a variety of reasons.  A distinction can be drawn between ex-believers who have rejected religion, and life-long non-believers. 

 

Ex-believers are often bothered by hypocrisy, self-righteousness and erratic doctrine. Many are repulsed by the Gospel of Wrath which attributes plagues, earthquakes, and natural disasters to an ‘act of God’. Skeptics looked more deeply for natural laws and predictable causes.  Disciplines of Wrath frequently demonized new discoveries and their implementation.  No finer example could be offered than Christian objections to the use of anesthetics to minimize the pain of childbirth. Religious zealots condemned this compassionate innovation as defiance of God’s curse that Eve and her daughters must suffer pain during childbearing. This kind of ‘religious’ fanaticism drives ex-believers toward atheism.     

 

Life-long atheists are more likely to regard religion as a denial of reality.  Life is what it is, and when it ends it’s over.  This may not be ‘good news’ but it is a fact; there is no evidence of consciousness without a physical body.  

 

The scientific method – based on questions, careful observation, and reason – has created the modern world of natural laws, medicine, and technology.  Atheists claim the credit for lifting humanity out of the Dark Ages, but reason is not synonymous with atheism.  Many scientists are not atheists. This was certainly true during the Enlightenment, and is still true in the modern world.  It as a false syllogism to claim that religion is superstitious and ignorant; people who believe in God are religious; therefore all people who believe in God are superstitious and ignorant.

 

Atheism is not a new idea. Most cultures haves had atheists, and some religions (eg Buddhism) have no God.  One of the long standing arguments against God has been the problem of evil.. The world we experience - filled with suffering - cannot be reconciled with a God who is omnipotent and omnibenevolent.

 

The Greek philosopher Epicurus is credited with stating the classic paradox concerning God and evil.

If God is willing to prevent evil, but is unable to do so, then he is not omnipotent.

If God is able to prevent evil, but is unwilling to do so, then he is not omnibenevolent.

Therefore, if a being is unable or unwilling to prevent evil, why call him God?

 

Religions can provide no resolution for this paradox, other than that the ways of God are a mystery which will, in the end, work out for the best. This is hardly a compelling reason to believe in a God who has been progressively displaced by the laws of nature. Skeptical magazines and websites frequent lament the high numbers of gullible people who still believe in God.  Atheists are mystified why the number of people losing their faith in science and turning toward Creationism is growing.  Some are indignant or even outraged at what they perceive as the mass stupidity of the human race

 

Why has atheism failed to capture the minds and imaginations of so many people?   Let us consider three major obstacles.

 

The first is the fact that the universe exists.  Why did it come into existence?  Science has been reluctant to attempt to explain the cause because whatever conditions and natural existed ‘in the beginning’ are no longer in operation.  

 

Cosmologist Laurence Krauss attracted more than a million YouTube views for his 2009 Atheist Alliance International Conference lecture on the origin of the universe. Then he wrote a bestselling book called A Universe From Nothing.  Has Krauss provided a scientific theory to explain the mystery of origins?  No.  The original ‘nothing’ that Krauss theorizes consists of particle pairs with a gravitational attraction that is just right for their total energy to be zero. Krauss does not attempt to explain the origin of these fertile pairs of particles.  Krauss may be a popular cosmologist but he is not a populariser of cosmological ideas.  When probed about the credibility of his theory he has replied, “Some of this bothers people. But who cares? Quantum mechanics is illogical—just get over it.”  This sounds remarkably like an appeal blind religious faith; to believe things that can’t be understood simply because a certified authority proclaims them to be true.  

 

The second reason many people prefer God to atheism is the existence of reproducible life.  How did inert chemicals combine to become living creatures, capable of reproducing themselves?  The greatest sales tool for Creationists is DNA. The more we know about the complexity of even the simplest cells, the harder it is to believe that these long, complex, precise chains of amino acids assembled themselves spontaneously.  Embryology has revealed that DNA contains all the information necessary for a single fertilized egg to begin multiplying, folding and diversifying, creating the specialized structures, organs, systems and functions that constitute a living creature, which will self-regulate and operate effectively for decades. 

 

Atheists used to justify the unlikelihood of a computer building itself — and then building a factory to manufacture clones of itself —by arguing that given an infinite number of planets and infinite time, everything not only can happen, but must happen.  However, the universe is not infinite in space or time.  In recent decades the argument for inevitability has shifted from a single ‘infinite’ universe to multiverses. Given an infinite number of different universes, everything is possible and inevitable. But where are these universes? The theory is barely testable. Once again, the theory requires a great leap of faith. 

 

The third reason that many people prefer God to atheism is consciousness.  How does a machine capable of reproducing itself develop a mind capable of thinking and feeling?  Scientists working on artificial intelligence have demonstrated the vast chasm between machines and animals, not to mention the moral and ethical dimension of humans.

 

Rational theists have made a compelling case against ugly religion, which does not threaten the beliefs of disciples of Anti-wrath or disciples of Love. As science delves deeper into the stunning complexity of the universe, believers and rational theists can agree that its structure, order and functionality suggest design, although they disagree whether the underlying cause is divine creation or responsive evolution. 

 

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7.  Militant Atheism

 

8.  The Believer's Dilemma: Which belief system? Why?

 

9.  The Problem of Evil

 

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