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Confessions of an Atheist – My Beliefs on Death and Other Matters
“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”
“The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it.”
Raised by my grandparents, I grew up in a Catholic family. My grandmother, aunt, mother, and sister all believe deeply in the Christian faith. So why don't I?
I stopped believing in God at a very young age, sometime in the fourth grade. Around the time I discovered Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny did not exist. A question popped into my head then that I could not resolve.
If God created the Universe, then who created God?
This dilemma stuck with me. One of faith based belief's lines of thinking proposes that something cannot come from nothing. Not an irrational argument. The religious answer of course…
No one created God, he has always existed.
Well, if he can have always existed, then why can't the Universe? If we follow this line of thought, what purpose does God still serve? Let's simply cut-out the middle man and look to our scientific understandings of the Universe to answer our many origin and creation questions. After all, science presents evidence, follows logic, and does not get wrapped up in the endless contradictions of religion.
From that point on, I continued to question and dissect the many facets of my, and other, religious belief. I engaged in discussions with my friends and peer believers. I'm not writing this to convince those of faith to join my side, so I will skip the details. I will just say, at some point after college, I finally rationalized away any reason to believe in God or religious doctrine.
I began to define myself as an atheist.
I don't want to focus on my reasons not to believe in a higher power or spirituality. I don't view the secular versus faith debate to be productive for most people. I want to share with you the basics of my current belief system based on all the information available to me this far in my life. I hope to reveal to the religious out there that an atheist worldview does not exclude ethics, meaning, wonder, or internal peace. That in fact, the truth of our reality often coincides with fundamental religious beliefs. That religion most likely identified many of the truths of our existence before acquiring the necessary tools to fully understand those truths.
People should not be distrusted simply for being atheist and if the atheist's beliefs adhere to rationalism and science, should probably be trusted more.
"Imagination is more important than knowledge." -Albert Einstein
We know very little.
I think we've known plenty about ourselves for some time, for longer than we've been recording history, most of us just don't want to admit it. Science came along and verified the patterns in our nature, but many of us still ignore the evidence. Despite all our progress and study of the Universe, we continue to ask many questions and make new discoveries.
“For me, I am driven by two main philosophies: know more today about the world than I knew yesterday and lessen the suffering of others. You'd be surprised how far that gets you... there is no shame in not knowing. The problem arises when irrational thought and attendant behavior fill the vacuum left by ignorance.”
-Neil deGrasse Tyson
We'll never have all the "big" answers, but would that really change the course of our lives anyway?
And maybe we're just asking impossible or silly questions to begin with?
Our purpose is life.
Our prime directive: to survive as individuals and as a species. Our core behaviors (and the behaviors of all species) to replenish and reproduce lead to this conclusion. Our flight or fight instincts, to defend our person and those we care about, also help to ensure our survival. Though civilization may seem very complex in our current state, it is built upon layers of this original purpose. The family unit, the clan, the tribe, the city, and the state all serve at more extended and larger levels of mutual cooperation and defense. It does not all work in perfect harmonium, but at the core of civilization, our social connections exist for us and our kind to persevere.
The individual determines their own purpose beyond this foundation.
Our common behaviors are a result of our evolution.
Sin, or good and evil, does not exist.
At least not in the real world. We give these labels to events or people which or who commit actions we dislike and disagree with: the conceptual birthplace or morals and ethics. In truth, all of our base behaviors co-exist and serve a necessary purpose.
- We need sex to reproduce.
- We need to eat to not die.
- We need greed to retain necessary resources.
- We need to fight or even kill to defend ourselves, our kin, and our people.
These instincts are biological and hardwired into our being. However, not everyone is wired the same way. Not everyone grows up in the same environment.
- Some people's sex drive creates impulses and urges that victimizes and harms others. Others end up being attracted to the same sex, or both sexes, or no sexes. Others identify as a boy, though born female, or as a girl, though born male. Some even come into the world with multiple sex organs.
- Some people cannot control their desire for certain substances, including food.
- Others harbor such an intense sense of territory and possession of resources that they will allow the rest to suffer and live in destitution to keep it. They will even go to war and kill to expand their own holdings.
- Others possess such a great affinity for killing that they murder for reasons outside of our prime directive.
Whether our nature helps or harms us, it sits on a spectrum, and it evolved along with our need to survive. This is who we are, just each of us are more or less of our common traits. Some live in the extreme edges of our characteristics, others in the middle.
I believe it would better benefit society to accept and understand these traits, rather than unproductively judge and punish the particular combination each person comes into the world with. Much of our unhappiness stems from society developing faster than our biological evolution and people not being able to meet societal expectations that go against their own biological nature. I am not suggesting chaos or anarchy, but that our laws and outlook should be more in tune with our nature, not in conflict with it.
Otherwise, life will be suffering.
“We are all connected; To each other, biologically. To the earth, chemically. To the rest of the universe atomically.”
We are disconnected.
Our civilization exists outside much of the natural course of things. Instead of waiting to evolve, we transform the environment around us to minimize our limitations. We invent and create beyond the capabilities of any other species. We arose to the top of the food chain to such an extent that we no longer reside within it. Most people do not struggle in the basic eat or be eaten ecosystem. We created our own system our bubble for humanity.
In that way, we did severe ourselves from something grander than us, but we replaced it with something arguably just as grand.
Of course, this does not mean we're totally disconnected.
We are immortal.
Or at least the stuff we're made of is. The atoms that comprise us have been here since the beginning of the Universe. So, from one point of view, we've been here since the beginning too. Each of our lives is a unique materialization of temporarily borrowed atoms. Our current form is finite, but our essence will continue well after our consciousness disappears.
“The atoms of our bodies are traceable to stars that manufactured them in their cores and exploded these enriched ingredients across our galaxy, billions of years ago... We are not figuratively, but literally stardust.”
Even the DNA of all living things can be closely linked. Since the most basic units of our existence will keep transforming into new life and forms of matter, you could say, everything reincarnates.
My living idols of truth?
“I want to put on the table, not why 85% of the members of the National Academy of Sciences reject God, I want to know why 15% of the National Academy don’t… One of the biggest problems with the world today is that we have large groups of people who will accept whatever they hear on the grapevine, just because it suits their worldview—not because it is actually true or because they have evidence to support it. The really striking thing is that it would not take much effort to establish validity in most of these cases… but people prefer reassurance to research.”
Enjoy your rare and short pulse in the Universe.
I hope you spend it doing things that make you happy, fulfill your spirit, and cause the least amount of harm to others!
I consider this Hub to be a draft and a work in progress. I'll return from time to time to add more comments, content, and possibly citations.
Feel free to leave your comments! All discourse welcome :)
© 2015 Warren Samu