Monday, April 03, 2006

“A” Eh?

Look at that! Homophones. I hope there aren’t any homophobes reading this.

On Friday I wrote a post about an experiment that was conducted to test the effects of prayer on heart surgery patients (Some People Just Like to Hear the Sound of their Own Prayers, Friday, March 31st, 2006). I was purposefully a bit incendiary. And it had the desired result. A fine reader named “A,” a name which I can only assume is a nom de plum used for the purpose of anonymity and not the author’s actual name (although, if it is, it’s a pretty cool name), took the time to share their feelings. Now I’m going to take the time to share some of mine (again). I mean, it’s only fair, right? I mean, it is my blog after all. So, I guess, even if it’s not fair, I’m going to anyway.

I won’t copy “A’s” complete response. If you want to read it in full go to the comments section from the last post (there are also other fine comments there that you can read as well [Niki, Kevin and Eric]).

Now, this post isn’t exactly a rebuttal, but I’m going to take “A’s” points one by one because it will help me keep my head straight and keep me on task. “A’s” comments will be shown in Italics:

You are always so rational and actually empathetic in your views. You have strong opinions about many things, yet are able to see a situation from different viewpoints and then choose your viewpoint.

That’s very true. I couldn’t agree more. This doesn’t have much to do with A’s actual comments, it was more of a buttering-up so that I would read the rest of their comments with an open mind. It worked. But mostly because it’s just so damned true! thanks “A.”

Now on to business:

Why do you get so upset over what Christians are doing? I read your blog occasionally, and Christians seem to get your goat more than anything.

Okay, this is a pretty good place to start. I’ll bet that a lot of people ask this question to themselves. Probably none more than my Christian friends, of which I have a lot. Some of my best friends are Christian (and black. No that last part is not true. But not because I don’t want to have black friends. I would love to have black friends. I have in the past, but we’ve kind of lost touch, as friends will do…look, I don’t have to defend myself to you! I’m being honest here! I also don’t have very many Vietnamese friends! Whatever!). And that’s the point. How could they not be? Christians are everywhere! And I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. But when you’re an Atheist living in a Christian world, it can be a frustrating place. See, a lot of Christians will tell you that people are losing God. I can tell you that it’s just not true. More people than not are religious (“spiritual”) in this country. Even many of those who don’t claim to be religious or spiritual, still believe in God. Problem is that no one can really come to any consensus about God. But most people are pretty damned certain that he exists (and in my opinion, if you believe God exists and you do nothing for him or about him, then what the hell are you doing? Just taking him for granted? If you believe the guy created you, the least you could do would be to give a shout out every once in a while! Even if you think he/she doesn’t really care. Sheesh!).

As an Atheist (with an open mind yet different from an Agnostic), I find myself on some kind of fringe. Most of the time I can garner a little understanding from Agnostics. But they’re not Atheists (with open minds yet different from Agnostics). They’re Agnostic. I also get some understanding from my good Christian friends (and some of them don’t even mix it with pity).

My point is that I’m not upset with Christians per se. I’m frustrated with religion and “spirituality.” The Christians are just what I know the best. They’re the ones who most directly affect my life. I’m not saying that they’re my slave-masters or anything, but they’re my most direct “oppressors.” And as Eric mentioned in his comment on the same issue, I am a little concerned about this country becoming a theocracy. I don’t have the luxury of saying “well, at least we’ll all have God.” Some of us don’t believe in God. And believe it or not, we don’t see that as a character flaw.

You are dead set on disproving, discrediting, and well--dissing Christians. Interesting.

It is interesting, isn’t it? I can’t possibly disprove or discredit Christians. Christianity is built in such a way that it’s impossible. Everything, even my heresy, is part of God’s plan.

And as for “dissing” Christians. Yeah, I do that. It’s fun. Christians call my belief system all sorts off horrible things. The work of the Devil, Blasphemy, Heresy, Hedonism (even though, I’m definitely no Hedonist, I won’t even take my shirt off to go swimming), Misguided, Unenlightened, Narrow-minded (this one goes both ways), Soulless, Dangerous, The Path to Hell… Why shouldn’t I be able to get a few digs in? I mean, it’s not like I’m condemning Christians to an eternity of Hellfire or anything, I’m just pointing out their human flaws. Mostly, I like to point out their hypocrisy. I like to point out hypocrisy everywhere. Even when it’s mine. Even though, I’m never a hypocrite. Not ever.

So…what if this ridiculous experiment HAD supported the power of prayer? What would you write in your blog? You’d be pissed off at Christians, as usual. You’d try to discredit the experiment the same way Christians are discrediting it now. Nobody likes it when people attack their belief system (or lack of belief system).

If the experiment had proven that prayer works I would have been cool with that. What do I care how someone gets to feel better? Am I some kind of monster? Sure, I would have first looked for a psychological explanation (It would be easy to find in this study), but I wouldn’t rule prayer out as a the tangible reason for the healing. Who the hell cares? I don’t pray, but I definitely keep good thought for people. I just don’t channel them through some God. I can wish someone luck without being superstitious.

And there’s a common misconception that exists about Atheists. That they don’t have a belief system. How can one not have a belief system? Is it possible to have brain activity and not have a belief system? Infants have a belief system. They believe that if they cry, they’ll get attention. Just because I didn’t notice the pretty flowers and oceans and clouds and seasons and death and make a great leap to a dude in the sky called “God” doesn’t mean I don’t believe in things. The flowers and oceans and clouds and seasons and death still exist. And if you want to get all new-agey on me and challenge their existence, then the illusion of their existence is real at least and that’s something too. So never accuse an Atheist of not having beliefs. You wouldn’t like it if I called your beliefs “Fairy Tale Hokum.” So you can attack my beliefs all you want, just don’t tell me that I don’t have any.

But what would you say if the scientific evidence actually SUPPORTED the Bible? Would you still choose to disbelieve the Bible? If you weighed out all of the evidence, pros and cons, and saw that there was more evidence supporting the Biblical view of creation and how the world works, would you still NOT BELIEVE? It’s an honest and sincere question. Because if you say YES, then you need to acknowledge that you're not seeking truth then. You are seeking a world view that you are “comfortable with.”

No. If I ever found “evidence” of God’s existence and the Christian world view, I would definitely be a convert. But I’ll never find “evidence” of God in the Christian sense because that’s not the way Christianity works. That’s why Christians are so fond of “faith.”

And I wouldn’t be “comfortable” with it. A being that created everything, sits in judgment of me and controls my ultimate destiny? How can someone be comfortable with that? It’s creepy. It’s frightening. That’s what the whole “fear of God” thing is all about. But how could I be comfortable with life as described by science? I can’t be. It’s cold. It’s callous. It’s random. And it doesn’t satisfy my sense of ego. But that’s the nature of the beast. None of it is comfortable. That’s the reason I didn’t give in to religion. And all my life there has been tremendous pressure for me to do so. Most people don’t think that it’s that big of a deal to adopt religion. There are a lot of people out there who wanted me to become Christian “just in case…” What’s that?

And as far as evidence goes, there is no “pro” or “con.” It’s evidence. It is, by it’s definition, neutral.

You claim “Religion is purposefully vague about many things.” I assume you mean the Christian religion in this case. Well, no it’s not. Christians believe in a God of miracles; that he's the guy that THOUGHT IT ALL UP. If so, then he's a helluva lot smarter than us.

To you it may sound like a cop-out answer to give God credit for something we can’t fully explain. It doesn’t mean we’re vague. We’re just saying God is capable of doing that and a whole lot more. Science is the vague one!! Science doesn’t even come up with good, plausible answers! The Big Bang? Evolution? FOUNDED on events that science can’t even prove could happen today in our “ultra-enlightened generation.” In fact, they are based on theories that CONTRADICT the way science says the world works.

Hey, let’s make sense here. You can’t explain away God by saying that we’re just too unenlightened to understand him and then not use the same rationale in your attack on science. Be fair. There are a lot of things we don’t understand. I don’t put too much stake in the science of man either. Whenever man gets involved, something’s bound to get screwed up. That’s just the way it works. We are primitive beings. Even by your religious admittance.

But there is one fundamental difference between science and religion. Science (even though you think that it does) doesn’t claim to have all the answers. Science, like religion, believes in an infinite universe, so, by its nature, science can’t possibly claim to know all, since it would take to the end of infinity to be sure and we all know that there is no end to infinity.

Science is a great deal of questions in search of the answers. The answers are out there. Maybe. Each question “answered” begets another question. It’s a never-ending process. True science. Pure science. The outcome is not inevitable. The only inevitability is that there will be another question.

Religion is a book of answers. The questions people have are supplied by the answers. It’s reverse engineering. The questions eventually lead back to the answers that were given to begin with. And if they don’t, then it was the wrong question. Because the answer never changes. When the answer changes, someone writes another tome and we get another religion. We get Mormonism or Hare Krishna or Scientology… Then the process begins again.

But if you just want to live in a world that your little mind (as brilliant as it probably is) is capable of fathoming, there’s nothing I can say.

Thanks for noting my probable brilliance. But I don’t get it. Why do Christians think that living in a world without God is easier to comprehend than living in a world with God?

I’m happy that you think that I can fathom the science of the universe, but I’m still awe struck by the miracle of the transistor radio.

That being said, life would be so much easier for me to comprehend if I believed in God. I would know the secrets of the universe. I would live, die, go to Heaven (or hell) and sit happily somewhere for eternity (boring, by the way). There would be absolute good and evil. Right and wrong. No doubts. No fear. Bliss. My life would be a lot easier. I would have absolute rules. I could “WWJD” myself all the live-long day. Man, it would be cool.

It would also be cool if I could shoot fire from my fingertips, but so far it’s been a no-go. I would also like to control things with my mind. I’m really lazy like that. But that’s not working out for me either. I would like to be the coolest guy on the planet. I would like for people to think so highly of me that they give me money just for saying “hello” to them.

Selfish? Yes. But so is the idea of Heaven. A happy place where we don’t have to actually die. We just transcend.

I guess what it boils down to is this. I give modern Christians such a hard time because they’re the know-it-alls of the planet. And why do they know so much? Because the believe that they do. They know the truth because they believe that they do. They have faith.

Faith is great and all, but man, it can get annoying.

Anyway, I’ve spent a lot of time writing this (you won’t be able to tell by the quality of writing, but I did, have faith that I did), so I’m going to leave with some thanks to “A” for their great comments. I like discussing this kind of thing. Especially since I’m an Atheist and can say anything I want without fear of divine reprisal.

Yeah! I win!

Fun Fact: If you want to see some great photographs from a truly gifted photographer and all-around nice guy, go here.

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