Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Atheism

What is atheism? In a broad sense, it is the rejection of the belief in the existence of God. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no gods of any kind in existence anywhere in the universe or elsewhere.

According to estimates, rates of self-reported atheism are among the highest in Western nations, again to varying degrees: United States (4%), Italy (7%), Spain (11%), Great Britain (17%), Germany (20%), and France (32%).

Legal and social discrimination against atheists in some places may lead some non-religious people to deny or conceal their atheism due to fears of persecution. A 2006 study by researchers at the University of Minnesota involving a poll of 2,000 households in the United States found atheists to be the most distrusted of minorities, more so than Muslims, recent immigrants, gays and lesbians, and other groups of people.

Many religious people don't like atheists and in fact they would rate them alongside rapists on levels of trust, suggests a new Canadian study that claims to be one of the first psychological probes into anti-atheist prejudice.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia and the University of Oregon conducted a series of studies that found a deep level of distrust toward those who don't believe in God, deeming them to be among the least-trusted people in the world despite their growing ranks to an estimated half billion globally.

The research began a few years ago when a series of polls revealed atheists to be some of the least-liked people in areas with religious majorities, which is to say, much of the world. In one poll, only 45% of American respondents said they would vote for a qualified atheist presidential candidate and overwhelmingly preferred to vote for African American, Jewish and female candidates. Americans also rated atheists as the group that least agrees with their vision for the country and the group they would most disapprove of their child marrying.

"It's pretty shocking we get the same magnitude of distrust towards atheists simply because they don't believe in God," said the researcher, who is himself an atheist. "With rapists, they're distrusted because they rape people. Atheists are viewed as sort of a moral wild card."

If an atheist doesn’t believe in the existence of God, does this mean that he is immoral? I hardly think so. Think about it. How many churchgoers have raped and murdered people? How many Catholic priests raped and otherwise sexually abused children? They believed in the existence of God.

Obviously, a belief in the existence of God is not proof that such believers are not immoral.

Another among the six studies conducted by the University of British Columbia found that people are more likely to hire someone for a job that requires high levels of trust, such as a daycare worker, if they believe they are religious. They would hire atheists for a low-trust job, such as a waitress, the study found.

A 1995 survey attributed to the Encyclop√¶dia Britannica indicates that non-religious people are about 14.7% of the world's population, and atheists around 3.8%. Another survey attributed to Britannica shows the population of atheists at around 2.4% of the world's population. If the world’s population is 7 billion, then that means that at least several hundred million people are atheists. Are we to believe that it is unwise to trust that many people because they are atheists?

Several studies have found Sweden to be one of the most atheist countries in the world. 23% of Swedish citizens responded that "they believe there is a God", whereas 53% answered that "they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force" and 23% stated that "they do not believe there is any sort of spirit, God, or life force". This, according to the survey, would make Swedes the third least religious people in the 27-member European Union, after Estonia and the Czech Republic.

Since ancient times, Human beings have delved into the problem of deciding for themselves whether or not a superior being exists. Atheism answers in the negative, the different religions answer in the affirmative. Which is truly the right answer?
There are two good reasons why atheists don’t believe in the existence of God. They are:

1. If God exists, then why is it that millions of people pray to God to save them and yet despite their belief in the existence of God, they die anyway?

2. Scientists believe that the universe began approximately 14 billion years ago. Religious people believe that God created the universe and that God has existed long before that. If that is so, then why didn’t he create the universe a hundred billion years ago? Was there ever a time when something had to appear which never before existed, or something has always existed but was never seen? If something has always existed, what was that? Was it life or was it matter?

In this modern age, millions upon millions of people are asking themselves, is there any proof that God really exists or is the belief in the existence of God just a fairy tale dreamed up by humanity to make us feel better about the brutality of human existence?

Atheists will argue that there's no reliable evidence of the existence of God/Yahweh, Allah, Zeus, Thor, or any of the thousands of other gods that people have worshiped. If any of the major gods existed, there would be reliable evidence. Since no such actual evidence exists, then according to atheists, these gods do not exist. They will argue that there's also extensive evidence that they are all just myths, created to help soothe our fear of death, and perpetuated through religion to subjugate the underclass into obedience.

Those who believe that God exists will argue that if God has revealed himself in nature, then in nature there must be some trace of God. Before I go further into that aspect of the belief in God, ask yourself this question: “Why is God spoken of as if he is a male? We always see references to God as Him, Himself, and He. Could God then be a female? Could God be an entity that is non-sexual?

Now no one with any semblance of brains believes that our Earth is the only place in the entire universe in which life in any form exists. There are trillions of stars in the universe so it follows that there also as many planets. Admittedly, not all of them are similar to our own but surely, our planet isn’t the only one that sustains life? That being the case, does it not follow that God (if he or she or it exists) didn’t necessarily create the first human beings (Adam) in the universe. But according to the Old Testament, Adam was the first human being to be created by God.

If that isn’t so, then surely that story is as myth.

Life, as we know it, brings forth life. Man, an intelligent being, with his scientific knowledge, and under the best of laboratory conditions, has tried, but has been unable, as yet, to produce life from non-life. Is it thinkable, then, that, somewhere along the way, non-intelligent matter, by itself, and without any help from any intellect, once brought forth life from non-life? Is this a plausible explanation for the beginning of life? This spontaneous generation of life coming from non-life would be by far a greater miracle than any we have ever heard of. But that isn’t proof that this only came about because of the existence of God.

What about the process of evolution? Again, we are back to the same question, namely, what was the beginning of such a process and what caused the process to start? There just had to be a beginning and if so, with what did our world begin? Where did that, from which everything else evolved, come from in the first place? If you believe in the big bang theory, then that is where the universe began.

If you asked every single person in the world who believes in God to tell you who or what God actually is, you would probably get a different answer from nearly everyone. That is because no one can honestly say that he or she has seen God. Now just because no one has ever seen him, her or it, doesn’t necessarily mean that God doesn’t exist. I for one haven’t seen Australia but I believe that it exists nevertheless.

There is nothing in the world that can prove whether God exists or not. Science can't prove the existence of God. Philosophers can't prove the existence of God. Priests, monks, or spiritual teachers can't prove the existence of God. No human being can honestly claim that they have personally seen God. Further, a thought or belief about God does not and cannot prove that God is real.

I'm personally not into ‘beliefs’. In fact, I try to give up as many beliefs as I can. They're all just made up anyway. When we believe a thought, it immediately becomes real in our experience. As soon as we let go of that belief, our reality changes and we no longer experience that belief in the same way that we previously did. We no longer see the world through the filter of that belief.

Religious scholars will say that there is evidence in history to support their beliefs in the existence of God. They will argue that God’s deliverance of His people, the miracles on Passover night and the parting of the waters in the Red Sea, the virgin birth of Jesus and Jesus’ resurrection from the dead are proof that God really exists. But suppose these so-called miracles were merely myths passed down century after century. If that is the case, then God must surely be a myth also.

When certain empirical evidences are put forth as likely disproving the existence of God, the theist regiments his commitments in terms of his presuppositions, as well. Just as the naturalist would insist that Jesus could not have risen from the dead, or that there is a natural explanation yet to be found of how he did rise from the dead, so the supernaturalist will insist that the alleged discrepancies in the Bible have an explanation—some yet to be found, perhaps and that the evil of this world has a sufficient reason behind it, known at least to God.

Atheists do not say that they can prove there is no God. Also, an atheist is not someone who denies there is a God. Rather, an atheist says that he has examined the proofs that are offered by the theists, and finds them inadequate proof that there is a God.

Religious believers in the existence of God believe that God is a supreme personal being, distinct from the world and creator of the world and the universe.

Theists will argue that life cannot originate from the random movement of atoms, and yet life exists. Therefore the existence of a God was necessary to create life. If we believe that we all originated from primeval ooze, then it is conceivable that life originated by the movement of those atoms mingling with one another.

Theists will argue that the Bible says that God exists, and the Bible is the inspired word of God, therefore what it says must be true therefore God exists. We must not forget that it was human beings that wrote the Bible and being human, they could have been wrong. We can't really use the Bible as evidence as proof of the existence of God, per se.

Theists will argue that the existence of miracles requires the presence of a supernatural force or a God. Because miracles do occur, therefore there must be a supernatural force or God. What appears as being miraculous often has an explanation that shows that it was simply an act of nature. A believer in the existence of God can use miracles as an additional argument, but in and of itself it
doesn't show the existence of a God, because it assumes that which needs to be proven.

Thomas Paine said this about miracles: "When you see an account that is given about such a miracle, by a person who says he saw it, it raises a question in the mind that is very easily decided. Is it more probable that nature should go out of her course, or that a man could tell a lie? We have never seen in our time nature goes out of her course, but we have good reason to believe that millions of lies have been told in this same time. It is therefore at least millions to one that the reporter of a miracle tells a lie."

Theists will argue that God is, by definition, perfect. A necessary quality of any perfect object is that it exists. If God did not exist, it would not be perfect. If perfection requires existence, then God exists. There is a problem with the word exists. In order for something to be perfect, it must first exist. If something didn't exist, the word perfect wouldn't mean anything. First you must have existence, then possibly you may have perfection. So, this again is going backwards; you must first have an existing God, and then you can decide whether God is perfect, if perfection is a quality of God, then God may be perfect but God doesn’t exist then his perfection is academic.

Theists will argue that without the existence of a God, people wouldn't have any reason to live or be good, therefore there has to be a God. Most people believe in a God, therefore there is a God. This really isn't a proof; it is just a wish. It's like saying that it would be nice to have a God (which it would), but that doesn't have anything to do with whether there is one or not.

Theists will argue that the existence of God cannot be proven by the use of reason, but only by the use of faith. The use of faith shows that there is a God, therefore God exists. Reason is a proven way to obtain factual information about the universe. Faith has not been shown to produce true information about the universe because faith is believing something is so because you want it to be so, without adequate evidence. Therefore, faith cannot be used to prove the existence of anything. Faith is what people use when evidence of something is lacking.

Many people have claimed to have a personal experience or encounter with God, therefore God must exist. I've never had such an experience, but I'm sure that people have absolutely honestly thought they've had such experiences. But, the feeling of having met God cannot be confused with the fact of having met God. There is a semantic confusion; and also, we cannot use our own feelings as if they were valid ways to obtain information about the world. They are feelings that we have inside of us, but we cannot demonstrate them to another person. They cannot be used as evidence. If everyone had that same experience; such as us all looking around the room and we all agreed that there is a clock over there, then we might say that the vision of a clock is a consensual one, if everyone agreed on it. Other than that, if you saw a clock and no one else did, then you will have a problem convincing the others that there is a clock in the room.

As you may have fathomed by now, I am an atheist. I remember when I was deeply religious and met a young atheist and heard him spout off his belief that God didn’t exist. I thought he was crazy. But as the years moved on, I began having doubts myself and finally, I eventually realized that I had become an atheist.

Now I know what you are thinking. If God really exists, then I am going to have a problem when I have to answer to him after I pass on. Well, as desperate as I will be, one word that will inevitably come to my mind at that great meeting will be the word, forgiveness. If God exists and he is really as merciful as church people claim he is, he won’t gag on that word when he hears it coming from my mouth.

I would be remiss if I didn’t state that I have read the Bible quite extensively and I found the teachings of Jesus to be extremely useful. If people who accept Jesus as their savior would adhere to his teachings, the world would be a better place to be in. This also goes for other religious leaders in history who preached goodness and justice to all. Even though I am an atheist, I still try to follow the footsteps of Jesus and the other great religious leaders of the past.

1 comment:

Suzanne F. said...

I'm glad you endorse Jesus.

I'd like to address every objection raised but I won't bore you with a long diatribe. I'll simply say, Catholic Tradition has refuted every single atheist conclusion.