Monday, March 15, 2010

One reason I'm a "belligerent" atheist.

I must qualify that claim because I don't really go around picking fights with theists.  And I've kinda beat this topic to death lately so I'll try to keep this short...

Anyway, this is related to a question Galen and Tim brought up the other night regarding why I've become so "belligerent" about my atheism (no, it's not because I hate all Christians).  This thoughtful video highlights an aspect of it that we didn't discuss, though I don't think I would make the claim that atheists are persecuted to the same extent that the blacks or the gays were.


  1. Okay, first, I think the "Shades of Black" title to your blog at the top has a broken link.

    Okay, next, part of me is reluctant to ask questions on this topic, but you did bring it up. Before that, I'm am completely cool with Atheism, it does make more rational sense than anything else. I'm curious though, by atheism, do you mean naturalism as in you believe that the natural/physical world is all there is? Or do you just mean that you don't believe in a theist God, but you still believe in some sort of transcendental reality. What about reincarnation? Possible or not? Any thoughts what consciousness is or parallel universes?

  2. Yeah, I know about the broken's effing annoying. I sent a request in to Google/Blogger to fix it (since my blog is now hosted on their servers), but I doubt I'll hear from them any time soon.

    As for your questions...
    I would call myself a naturalist and a secular humanist (though you didn't really ask about that second part). I don't particularly have anything against belief in transcendental reality, but I have not heard a compelling account of one.

    On my view, reincarnation is only possible in so far as some of the atoms that physically compose me at some time can also physically compose part of some other person at another time. I do not think there is a separate soul that can inhabit a different body.

    I have nothing enlightening to say regarding consciousness, though my view is that mind states are none other than brain states.

    I have no developed thoughts on parallel universes, though I tend to be skeptical of the idea.

  3. Hmm. I think for a long time I was secretly a naturalist, but I wouldn't have admitted it. Still, it seemed like the only realistic possibility. More recently though (like in the last 10 years) I've started think that there must be a deeper level of reality. There are too many weird questions without good answers. Like why do the laws of physics just happened to be fine tuned to allowed the existence of life. Science seems to have settled on the concept of parallel universes to explain this, and that is probably part of the answer, but I don't think it's the whole answer. Beyond that though, why does anything exist at all? Why isn't there just nothing? Or if we are only alive for a short period of time, why do I just happen to be alive right now. And why am I me, and not you, or someone in a third world country, or my cat, or a bird. Science does a great job of explaining the observable universe, but it doesn't really tell us why. Yeah, I'm gonna stop before I sound like a complete crazy person. Maybe I'll write a blog post where I try to explain myself better. Or maybe I'll eat a burrito. Choices.

  4. I don't think there's any way to know the answers to the "why we're here" questions you are asking. I also don't like the "finely tuned" argument. To me, the laws of nature are a brute fact. If they were different, we wouldn't be here...though that does not preclude the possibility of intelligent life in another form.

    Another thing to consider is that the scientific constants that scientists refer to when they make this argument are only there because we ascribe them based on observation. Though these constants are useful in describing the world/universe, I don't think we can really say that they are properties of the universe in and of itself. I.e., these constants are based on our scientific view/description of the universe. If we experienced the universe in 6 dimensions, or something crazy like that, our constants would be different. I don't know that my point is clear (or correct) here.

  5. That was a very good article. I like the multiverse idea, the only problem is, even if it's true, you still have to explain why the multiverse exist in the first place. And even if you come up with a good explanation, then you have explain why that explanation exist.

    I was going to write a blog post about all this, but then I realized that it would be like 4 blog post, and then I realized I didn't want to write all that :)

    I will mention that I once read a book called the Self Aware Universe by this Physicist from the University of Oregon. I can't say that I would recommend the book, but it does propose the interesting idea that consciousness is the fundamental component of reality, and the physical universe follows from it. In a sense, this is all something like a big group dream. This is an interesting way to solve the fine tuned universe issue, since we aren't going to dream up a reality in which we can't exist. Also, it is true that our consciousnesses are the only things we can be absolutely certain exist, since they are the only things we observe directly.

    I guess what it comes down to is that there will always be a level of reality that is unknown to us. We could be living in one of many multiverses, we could be living in a computer simulation, this could all be a dream, or there could be some form of a god. There are infinite possibilities, in some of them we are mere side effects of a much larger process, and in some of them, we are fundamental to the process. I guess I prefer the later, since they avoid the whole fine tuned universe issue.

  6. Interesting post and discussion! I agree that atheists are often persecuted and placed in the position of having to defend their views, in s similar way that gay people are placed in the position of having to defend their "lifestyle choices." when other people do not have to defend why they want to get married or adopt children, etc.
    As far as what I believe, I still don't know In the meantime, I like learning about what everyone else believes;).