Thursday, May 19, 2011
God is unncessary (Why I am an Atheist)
So, how did I go from superstitious god fearing child to, skeptical dude with a hunger for science?
I wanted a great cataclysm that cracked the world.. and split humanity from its stuck little places..
I’ve always felt .. even since a very young age that this is where the world is headed.. in my mind and heart, a great war was coming.. a great end. That I should live the last of my days in the struggle of survival, by law of steel and fang.
I’ve never understood exactly where this instinct had come from. I wouldn’t actually become aware of it until years later and even then did very little to analyze its origin, nature and effects.
at first applying the concepts imprinted on me by religion, since at a young age it was forced upon me and my construct of reality. A part of black culture I could not escape. The words end of days, and revelations, associated with the coming of god and the war on earth between good and evil. It seemed natural to me that even as I out grew literal understandings of religious things, that the emotions and feelings that this powerful story incited, would remain. This hypothesis would still seem far too empty in the end, as my religiosity would approach zero.
I was a superstitious kid, and was deeply into fantasy and Sci-Fi, from too much of reading, movies and video games. My entire world and understanding of it was shaped by these things and still to this day I joke about how these things raised me. Religion would further my intense interest in demons and hell. I relied on these understandings as though they were fact, praying for help to god when times were tough, wondering at the symbolism behind these seemingly cryptic replies...
Until... it stopped making sense. how is a universe in which a god exists but acts in such a way that you cant tell he exits, so much different from a universe where doesn't exist at all?
... i know now why I wanted a great cataclysm.. its not what I really wanted, what I really wanted was meaning.. the meaning to life. A great cataclysm , was a representation of the moment I would have to pick up my role in the meaning of life.
I had to understand what reality is.. I had to understand how it works. What is the point of it?
Knowledge in all of its forms having always been my truest passion, and science the best aperture from which to gain it, furthered my understanding of the world at its more basic level. math, physics, geometry, geology, astronomy started such thinking, my analyses continued.
What dire and abstract reasoning, only because as out of place as I have felt, these thoughts and studies distanced me further still from my situation.
I was stuck
Not only in my role in life, but in the debilitating struggle of my knowledge versus my actions. I never wanted to be this. Struck content, and sliding through existence on the charted path of giving up. In fact it is everything I have ever fought against. That which I would never let myself become.
Content. Giving in.
I still rage against this and though close, so close that I would fall with my face inches from the bottom, eyes shut and hoping the bottom was not as close as I felt. I brandished that which fills that spark. that curls my lip and makes me shiver. That need to drink pure understanding from reality. To imbibe it and feed my moments of euphoria.
So I did.
Day after day, though I felt the veil pulled over my eyes, hiding my lack of action. I swelled with a litany of observation and information.
During a debate in a class on logic, over determinism vs existentialism, the conversation turned as it often did toward the whether or not gods existence mattered.
"if there is no god, then how can I find a meaning to life?" Said a classmate, who opted for the deterministic approach of a plan laid out by God.
Curious. The answer became obvious to me even as it dripped from my lips in a dry and irritable compulsion. "there is no general meaning to life, you attribute meaning to it yourself. " I retorted. (I was/am a huge jerk)
At that moment chaos theory made perfect sense to me,
As did probability theory.
But as I cocked my head and studied the boy who had spouted the original argument with hopeless exasperation, staring fearfully at his hands and then around for any who would help him. I suddenly had an epiphany and understood then why I was loathsome about human nature. I said it easily enough, with mostly curiosity, but i suppose my follow up was in fact ripe with impatience
"you mean,.... You really sat back.. Waiting for some god to give you meaning to your life? How long have you been alive without living?"
My professor interjected himself here, a clear severing of what would have most likely been a cruel engagement. But I saw the tears in his eyes. I saw him still staring down at his hands , silent, awestruck, and beneath the lenses of his glasses a well of tears which formed the corners of his eyes and snaked down.
I kept staring. Not out of malice but pure fascination. Had I really just torn down someones defenses, sundered the pillars that held up his world? Had I really watched someones understanding of existence collapse. He was standing in the rubble of his unchecked reality. Something I would later call a paper bridge, the root of my studies on humans and existence
I was cruel in my youth, I realize now. I still may be as cruel when getting a point across, but what I learned about people was directly gleaned from that experience.
When one came to a gap in their knowledge that could challenge their understanding , they built a paper bridge. A temporary construct that had enough support to help them cross this gap. But something so poorly conceived would never hold up if stood upon. Typically when forced to deal with this gap, their world collapsed and they would either survive it to make it stronger, or not survive and fall prey to a weakened mentality. They call it, "The god of gaps"
The next phase of my observation would take me far longer to flesh out, but was marked by a sudden understanding of the politics and mass thinking that was engaging the war on science and reason itself
My resolution into an atheist took sometime... Even before arguing in philosophy class, my objective reasoning only took me as far as the agnostic principles.
Religion, whether genetic or memetically ingrained, the questions of how and why still lead an ignorant youth to a universe where god might exist, (though with little to no anthropomorphic characteristics.)
But it was exactly that. Ignorance, the day I understood the processes of evolution and the creation of the universe, my necessity for god went from possible to unnecessary. Even then, I did not reason myself as an atheist.
This video taught me the absurdity of the thought that the universe was made for us, and that all things seem perfectly suited for existence
I followed the war between science and religion aching from head to toe at the irrationality of what was happening. History denial. Science denial, all on a principal of chosen ignorance.. I could sympathize with religious scientists who could path the paradox of belief and science. But to see our world literally in the grips of the small minded.
The day I stumbled upon TED Talks, and listened to Richard Dawkins a call for militant atheism, is when I first began to critically think about my position as an agnostic.
What caught me is, that everyone is agnostic by default. logical people whether that are religious or not, know they cannot know for a certainty that god exists or he doesn't. To say that you know or don't know for a certainty makes you a zealot, in either camp, and to say that you re agnostic is an unfinished statement. Not an exact quote, but I vibrated with the tenacity of what he meant. Of course no one can KNOW for certain. That is the nature of faith and also the nature of scientific method. But with the evidence I have for understanding reality, I could easily base my life on the principal of gods existence being completely unnecessary.
Reality felt cold and some how. I remember turning in my thesis to my professor in logic class and his words were.
"huh.. a universe without god, and the consequence of being sentient enough to why?........ this seems, true.. its hard to dispute but.. so cold.. and just.. "
Cold indeed... it felt like something was not right. I studied biology and evolutionary biology, with the hopes of filling that void. I could completely describe the process and the complete theoretical path from a pressure point in nothingness to the birth of a universe and stars, to the development of DNA in puddles of mud, to the evolution of strange upright walking primates, who like to make weird laws and pretend they are special and buy things, while breeding like pond scum..
why did I still want there to be a god?..... A friend would bring to my attention, the studies that aching question.
Religion as an evolutionary tool? A mechanism for survival? Here is a link to such studies
Put simply Example of this in use could be as follows:
Two separate families of prehistoric humans, become trapped in two different caves during a long blizzard or drought.
Family A: the family prone to magical thinking, assumes a position of helplessness, humbled by the idea of a higher power that will get them through their troubles. They wait out the Blizzard or Drought, and are seemingly rewarded with its end and the chance to pass on genes that are prone to magical thinking
Family B: the rational group, knows the reality of the situation they are in, survival becoming as an imperative, the actions they take possibly lead to betrayal and likely cannibalism to survive the storm, or drought, Since they know these environmental hazards may not end before they die or starvation and thirst. Thus ending the gene pool less prone to magical thinking.
That was it.. The yearning for a god and an answer to the question why am I here, was not in and of itself special... I had to think objectively and step outside of myself to answer the question. The angle I was attacking the question at had the "feeling" of yearning god as the bases for my question. but in reality I should have been asking why should there be a feeling at all! this is the bases of Critical thinking. Objectivity in understanding the whole without biases.
It was the Day I watched this talk by Neil Degrasse Tyson, that not only did I not need a god.. I felt better than ever knowing that I was apart of something even more spectacular. Stars... and the entire universe.
Please if you have 16 minutes.. watch the entire thing.you will be moved.
Brilliant. The most moving concept ever.. My ancestors were Stars and suns.
This would move me. Powerful, arching light of knowledge, and the passion about science that I had had billowed through me.. To Know.. to touch the knowledge of something so immense and elegant. I would never be the same.
I was an Atheist.. A feverish challenger of faith and poor logic, a deep drinker of natural history and understanding. A Preacher of how amazing out universe is...
Through understanding nature and the scientific method, Through skepticism and inflection. Through crticial thinking, I determined ... there was no need for a god in the universe, I dont know everything.. WE dont know everything, but I know from history that we can and will always keep learning and expanding knowledge.. Tha that God of Gaps, is an antiquated Idea... I may not understand the next boundry of our knowledge but that doesnt mean that someone else who comes along may not either.
anyway, I'll see you in hell.
-We are Hell