Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tooth Fairy Agnostics

So, I watched Richard Dawkin's talk on his atheist call to arms done at TED. Click Here .

There were several moments that really made me thing a little bit. He spoke about the negative stigma that atheists receive in the US, and about what name Atheists should give themselves to be more accepted.

In one passage of his speech quoted George H. Bush answering a question about how patriotic atheists might be. Get the whole story here. George's response was

Bush: No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.

Which is funny, since 'under God' wasn't even in the original pledge. According to that all knowing Wikipedia, it was added later by a very influencial group called the Knights of Columbus that felt separation of Church and State wasn't all that important.

Atheists really tend to have a sort of social stigma attached to the name. Probably this is why I have insisted to friends who ask me if I'm atheist, I generally reply that I'm Humanist. Mr. Dawkins continued to suggest that in order to gather votes in this country, one would have to be openly religious. Gathering votes means gathering enough money to get votes. I wonder if an atheist could ever rise to the point of political power in this country. Mr. Hawkins argued that an atheist probably could not.

But some of our smartest and brightest stars are atheist and intellectually they would certainly be as capable, if not more capable, of guiding our country through the strange religiously based political mine fields in our world today.

Well, at least they would not claim that God was on the side of America. Instead, perhaps we could have discussions about how we as humans, and possibly the most intelligent creatures on the planet, should be good to each other for goodness sake, rather than for fear of damnation's sake.

I understand that most people in the world have some sort of religious belief. I also held 'deep' religious beliefs up until very recently and so I can see how people have them, but it seems like reason should begin to have more influence over private thought. I'm not sure how I managed to dodge these thoughts for so many years really. How is it that politicians do?

He related a story about a meeting with someone who described himself to Mr. Dawkins as a Tooth Fairy Agnostic. His thought process was that although he could not prove Tooth Fairies don't exist, he certainly wasn't going to live his life pondering their existence, much as he felt there was a lack of evidence to conclude the existence of God.

In the end, he recommends that closet atheists come out of the closet and be known so that folks begin to see that atheism doesn't necessarily equal an amoral individual responsible for the crimes of humanity.

In my opinion, it would seem much more likely that theism itself would be more responsible for many of the crimes committed against humanity in God's name.

Sort of unrelated, but also featured on TED was Julia Sweeney's act on meeting the Mormon missionaries. I giggled a little and enjoyed her story.

It is quite true that when you hear somebody else tell you about their superstitious beliefs, it can sound more like the fantasy section at barnes and nobles than a religion. But interestingly enough, I think it probably only sounds that way because I'm not used to having it brainwashed into me from childhood.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins. I've been avoiding this man for far too long, and I think its time I took a look. So I started watching his video:

His thought is that our unfounded spiritual pursuits detract from scientific achievement.

This line of of thinking moved me to think on the amount of hours spent in Churches and spritual centers, listening to and studying superstitious beliefs. Imagine if that time could have been spent in service of others, or in studying to irradicate some of our diseases, or at least our diseased economy.

The final line Mr. Dawkins says rings true for me. We must favor verifiable evidence, over private feelings, otherwise, we leave ourselves open to those who would obscure the truth.

I think of all those that would have interest in obscuring the truth. There could be those who deliberately obscure the truth, as well as there could be those who obscure the truth through well intentioned gap filling. I.e. in the absence of a complete picture, there are those who will fill in the gaps with well intentioned superstition or anecdotal evidence.

I can't believe that religion has anything more than this unverifiable private feeling. There is no proof of any of the bodies that have died in our past as coming back to life. In fact, we have found most of them right where we left them, what is left of them anyways.

I am brought to consider how I would be received were I to attend my local church and ask folks which they preferred, religious belief, or verifiable evidence. I'm afraid I might get run out of town with pitch forks.