The “Evangelical” Atheist – Tolerance, and the differences we share

March 24, 2012

Frank Vernon Fred Miller asks:

How many of you, having denounced religion, or at least upon accepting Atheism as your belief, found it difficult to accept the fact that religion permeates every aspect of our environment including our families, our work, and our schools?

I am having difficulty accepting how much religion influences every aspect of our lives from centuries of dogmatic abuse. I laugh at my own ignorance when I occasionally use expressions such as, “Oh my God” or “Jesus Christ!”. It serves to remind me just how much religion in my own immediate environment has influenced me.

I want to be tolerant of others beliefs. I don’t want to be just as offensive an evangelical christian by forcing my beliefs upon others, but I find myself doing just that at times with Atheism.

I realize now that I should have been born much farther into the future when our species has evolved a bit more.


Creating the Creator

July 10, 2011

We humans believe in all sorts of different gods.  It is a rare person who believes that all of these gods exist.  Most people in modern society believe that only one particular God exists (Allah or Yahveh for example), or they believe that only a particular pantheon exists (The Father, Son, Holy Ghost, and angels for example). And a few of us believe that none of these gods exist.

Unless you happen to be one of the rare people who believe that all gods that anyone conceives of really exists, you can join me in exploring how people come to dream up the gods that do not exist (excluding, of course, your god or pantheon which really does exist).  Here is one plausible account:

Memories of the dead

When a parent dies, there is very often the mistaken feeling that the parent is still somehow still with us after his or her death. We continue to “feel” the parent’s presence for several months. Our memories of the parent, emotional denial of his or her death, our habit of having the parent with us since birth, all make it difficult to realize the loss. In some societies, ancestor worship is the main religion. These feelings, that the parent is still present, has grown into a codified belief system where ancestors are always present and watching over their progeny.

When some ancestors become more powerful than others (the spirit of my great great granddad can protect me against the spirit of your great great granddad), that ancestor becomes a demigod. Each generation attributes more powers and abilities to their demigods. Over time, the demigods begin to look like what we would call gods.

Belief in the unseen

Most of the time, we (and other animals) can distinguish an agent from an inanimate object. We can tell for example that a lief blowing overhead in a stiff wind is inanimate, even though it is moving erratically. We can tell that a hawk gliding smoothly overhead is animate; the hawk is an “agent”. An agent can act, it has the ability to direct it’s movements. Inanimate objects can be acted upon but they don’t act of their own accord.

We are good at recognizing agency. Our ability to recognize agency is hardwired in us, it is essential for our survival. We can recognize pray, and more importantly, we can recognize predators. But because our ability to recognize agency isn’t perfect, we have evolved to err on the side of mistaking an inanimate object for an agent. This has some disadvantages. One disadvantage is that we might flee at the sound of a falling pine cone. However, this is far more preferable than erring in the other direction – it is far more preferable than mistaking an agent for an inanimate object. That is how you get eaten by a predator!

We’ve all heard a creak in the house that sounded a little like a footstep. Or we’ve seen a shadow that look a little like a person. Because we are hardwired to recognize agency, and if we can’t tell for sure, we’re hardwired to err on the side of recognizing agency when there is no agent. We interpret these “unseen agents” as spirits or ghosts. Spirits and ghosts are what we call agents that are invisible. Most of us have had the experience of “seeing a ghost” until we look close and discover we have seen a shadow.

Language develops

As hominids become bipedal, children could no longer easily hang from the mother as she goes about her business of foraging and traveling. The child had to walk close by as soon as he became big enough to walk. As a result, physical gestures between mother and child became less effective since the child and mother were no longer in constant physical contact. Vocal utterances began to take on a primary role in mother child communication: “stay close by, beware of danger, eat this, stop that!”

Language takes on a more important role as toolmaking develops – it’s a way to pass on the skill to children and other tribesman. Finally, it becomes a way of facilitating cooperation. Language evolves from grunts and hoots and becomes symbolic.

Language can describe the unseen

As language becomes more sophisticated, it becomes adequate to describe a dead ancestor or tribesman to a child who has never seen him.

Conflation of real and imaginary

The child grows up with the understanding that there are unseen people who everyone believes to be real. The same child hears stories of mistaken (or intentionally invented) agents which are indistinguishable from stories of extinct agents. There is a conflation between an imagined agent who never existed with real extinct people who really did exist.

Imagining Gods

Memories of ancestors become distorted as more superhuman feats are attributed to them. Super ancestors are imagined to explain apparent agency that would not be possible actions of (normal) dead relatives: thunder, earthquakes, the sun tracking along the sky, floods, famine, epidemics.

Imagining a Creator

Logic develops and people begin to recognize that things have origins. What is the agent that created those things? The origin stories from different cultures give us examples of various Creators that we humans have imagined.


Atheists With Doubts

May 25, 2008

New thread courtesy of Doug – he writes:

Atheists With Doubts.
All of us have doubts.
All of us have questions.
Christians have doubts about Gods existence, Christians wonder why ‘good things happen to bad people’.
Just as Christians have doubts and questions about the fact that, ‘YES GOD IS’.
No doubt atheists sometimes have doubts that God does not exist.
This thread is specifically for you. This being an atheist web site I do not expect many if any hits, for who would want their name broadcast that perhaps, just maybe they have doubts that God does not exist. 99.9% of aethiests would refuse to express their doubts.

Belief in God is not a playground it is a battleground!

Best wishes & God bless you,
Doug


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