Penn on Theism, Atheism and Agnosticism.

This video is a prime example of what I consider a positive (or at least Neutral) attitude about Theism, Atheism and Agnosticism. Unlike many of the folks who feel the need to rant and rave about the evils of one or the other, Penn Jillette has managed to distill the issue into simple, practical, and more importantly, logical and unbiased/objective questions.

I do not always agree with his view points on things, since I find he sometimes does make flawed assumptions that weaken many of his otherwise strong arguments. But in this case, his attitude and reasoning is something that I wish we would see more often from supposedly rational, logical and unbiased people, as opposed to the hostile, prejudiced and irrational approach so many people often seem to take on both sides.

Penn Says: Agnostic vs. Atheist – [YouTube]

I am Infinitely Less Holier Than Thou…

You know, people have given me a lot to think about. It is becoming more and more obvious that for many of you, the debate about religion vs atheism has little to do with actual rights, intelligence, violence, or anything of any relevance whatsoever, and more to do with being right, people trying to feel better about themselves, and, of course getting their own way.

I’ve heard some really stupid religiously motivated garbage. Non-believers should perish. The believer is more important than the non-believer. God told me to kill those people. God’s wants me to persecute them. It is impossible for a non-believer to be good. Associate with sinners and you’ll go to hell.

Dancing is of the devil. (no, I kid you not – life is stranger than fiction.) I’ve read a lot of religious texts. And I’ve realized that what many people get out of them is what *they* want to take from them. They are all written in a metaphorical style, and as a result, they are all highly subject to interpretation. And this is where, in this humble bloggers opinion, people go wrong.

That’s not to say that the other side is blame free. I keep hearing Atheists talking about having their rights violated by religious zealots. For things that are ridiculously just trivial. And then gleefully sliding down that slippery slope to whatever conclusions gets their knickers all a-twist. Yet the same people turn around and say that *nobody* should not be allowed to pray in schools, as if it’s an infringement of their rights if someone should dare say a few “Hail Mary’s” in their presence, or say Grace before a meal. Meanwhile, a person can cuss up a storm, regardless of who may happen to find swearing offensive, then stick their nose in the air and say “Freedom of speech!” and everyones lips snap shut.

And then theres things like this: “Why are atheist mad? Because it’s religions people are pretentious! It’s as if they think they are better than us!” Yes, I’ve actually heard that said. Meanwhile, The very same atheist are calling religious people stupid for believing in what they believe to be the equivalent of the tooth fairy. As if belittling anothers belief system was not at all condescending in any way. Yeah. Right.

It’s one thing to say that everyone should be given the choice whether to pray or not, but I hear some of you saying that ALL RELIGION must be removed from schools, hospitals, etc, and that is just going to the opposite extreme. Might as well ban cussing, swearing, spitting, eating red meat, smoking, drinking, etc, etc, etc. Yes it sounds extreme, but this is exactly the same type of legislation many atheists would like to see with respect to religion. And if that happens, you can all just call me Plissken.

Who is really looking down on whom, I wonder? My personal take? Both camps are being selfish, pretentious, illogical and intolerant. Religious folks cannot blame “sinners/nonbelievers” for all that is wrong in the world. I know many nonreligious folks who are much better, higher quality people, than quite a few Christians I know.

Conversely, atheists cannot blame “Religion” for everything either. The acts of a few fanatics do not represent “religion” as a whole, and and even if they did, proposing complete religious prohibition would still be prejudice. “Because it could possibly offend someone.” is not a good rational to make something illegal. Why do people not get that? Everyone is offended by something these days. If we follow that train of thought, everything would be illegal.

It seems very few people these days seem to truly understand the meaning of balance and tolerance.

The true meaning of tolerance: co-existance

In a recent post, I talked about how the rift between atheists and theists seem to be getting bigger every day, and not because of the few valid differences that exist between the two ways of thinking, but for reasons that are actually peripheral to the really important ones. I have gotten some flack for it, surprisingly, all from the atheist camp, but the vast majority of it seemed to consist of flawed logic. We claim to be a nation that respects all colors, creeds, and religions, and yet, people are somehow supposed to leave all of those things at the door when they go to work?

It’s like telling a black person, “Yes, we are an equal opportunity employer, however when you come to work, you must leave your skin at the door, so as not to possibly offend someone by your blackness…” Yes, yes, it’s an exaggerated example, but the thing is, this would be easily recognized as race based prejudice, whereas, with religion, it somehow wouldn’t be. If someone can give me a good explanation how this makes sense, besides saying “If your beliefs could possibly offend someone, you must leave it at home.” I’d really like to hear it.

But back to the topic at hand. Today, I ran across an article that confirmed something that I have believed all along. There has never really been a good reason for people to butt heads over creation vs evolution. The Vatican has apparently come to the conclusion that the two are, in fact compatible with each other. To be honest, I really never understood why there was any conflict to begin with. The two are completely separate ways of thinking, but try to describe the same thing, which we all *KNOW* happened. Why *wouldn’t* they be able to coexist side by side?

What people don’t seem to realize is that Science does not provide answers. That is not what science is. Science is a method. Not a solution. It is not an answer. It has it’s failings, and at the end of the day, we have to trust that the experts in their fields have come up with the right interpretations for what they have observed. Anyone who is being honest with themselves will realize that believing in science is an act of faith. Faith, in both the scientific method, and in the people who employ them. And while I value the scientific method and methods of objective analysis above any other way of learning the truth of the world around us, there have been countless examples where the scientific method has not yielded correct answers. Not because the method failed, but because it is limited by our own understanding. Basically, we don’t know what we don’t know. And even science can’t fix that. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something.

I found it interesting that my last post was rather swiftly assaulted by someone I’d consider a “devout” atheist, who simply ignored me (and pretty much almost everything else I said) when asked if they thought Atheism was a belief system or not. I find it interesting because it seems like people would rather seek out the differences between people than the similarities. My pointing out that Atheism is as much a belief system as any theistic system i can think of really ticks some people off, and for the life of me, (as I have been told) “I don’t get it.”

But let’s actually look at the similarities. Atheists claim that blind faith is stupid. Now I actually agree, however we must also admit that the vast majority of us do not understand many of the complex sciences we work with on a daily basis. We take at face value that what our engineers, physicists and doctors tell us is true, because it was determined “scientifically”.  That is an act of faith people. A belief in something we cannot prove for ourselves. And this, in spite of how often “science” proves to be wrong. Theoretical physics is rife with  backtracks and redacts,  medicine is an art as much as a science, and engineering changes with each new material we discover.

That act of faith is almost identical to that which many Christians take when the walk into a church. They blindly leave thier brains at the door, and imbibe whatever spiritual liquor their Imam/Pastor/Priest happens to be pouring that day. And I have heard some things from the mouths of supposedly holy religious men and women that was absolutely unbelievable. Despicable, manipulative, and just plain wrong. But here’s the kicker. I find all kinds of “science fearing’ atheists who are willing to just absolutely devour the exact same garbage spewed by politicians and community leaders, and don’t see that it’s exactly the same. The. Exact. Same. Drivel.

And the result is always the same. Needless violence. Humans have perpetuated just as much violence for secular reasons as religious ones. Nobody, has a lock on the evil that man does to man. You take away religion, and you will find that we have killed each other for lots and lots of other reasons. The truth, is that it is human nature. It is our nature to do what we do. How much different is a door to door sales man from a Jehova’s witness? They are both equally annoying. Why demonize one over the other? Humans simply use the most convenient way to justify doing whatever it is they want to do. The reasons are purely circumstantial. Believe what you want, but there is no escaping it. Science and religion have much more in common that most want to admit.

But the point of my long and winding rant is this. The Vaticans announcement illustrated that it is possible for religion and science to coexist. And  coexistence is what true tolerance is about. They are two radically different ways of describing something we all know happened somehow, and the two may be based on completely different ways of thinking, but that does not mean that they cannot both co-exist. There are no real reasons for either side to be considered inherently offensive to the other, and I wish people would stop thinking and acting as if there are.

The Vatican’s View of Darwin Is Evolving – [NFN - Yahoo News]

Giving relevance to the irrelevant…

I will admit to not understanding the way most people think. On a daily basis I hear things from people that indicates a kind of logic that, to me, seems rather unusual. However I can respect that others have different ways of thinking. It’s what makes humans human.

But one thing that I find really confusing is that I also run into people who say things that should logically contradict their own way of thinking. A recent event regarding a nurse who got suspended for asking one of her patients if they would like her to pray for them got me thinking about it…

Supposedly, even asking was inappropriate, as it could offend someone. And that’s what I don’t understand. Why would an atheist (for instance) be offended by a theist asking to pray for them? She didn’t ask them to convert to Christianity/Islam/whatever. She didn’t even ask *them* to pray. I don’t get it.

There seems to be an unfathomable logical chasm between what people believe and how they behave. Lets say, for example. You believe in one, all powerful, omnipotent, omnipresent God. Then, as Captain Kirk once put it, “What does God need with a star ship?” If all God wants is to see his people at their best, would it really matter what everyone else believed, just so long as they loved their fellow man? I would submit that it doesn’t matter. At least not to any God worth his salt. It only matters to us. We are the ones who have made such a relatively trivial point one of ultimate importance.

Lets also consider the position of the atheist. The devout scientist, for instance, who believes there is no God. And yet wants to see theism of any kind removed from society as a whole. Why? Because religion is evil? If you truly believe there is no God, then what a person believes is also irrelevant, because there is no omnipotent power to back them up is there? And if there is no God, then all evil is the result of man, not religion. Following a religion is not what makes a man evil. It’s what they decide to believe and do that does. And for that reason, any atheist should be railing against men, not God.

People seem forget that it is we who decide to act the way we do. Any Christian will tell you that God has granted man free will. And any atheist should tell you that each mans actions is their own. So seeing as they both agree on the most important issue of all, why do Christians still blame atheism for the decline of our cultural morals, and why do atheists still blame theism for sociopolitical strife?

That makes no sense to me. Instead, why not prioritize a persons intentions, instead of their beliefs? If a person asks if they can pray for you, recognize that they mean you well, and they are doing everything they can possibly do to make it so. If you believe prayer is useless, fine. But is it so hard to accept the gesture for it’s intent, rather than take offense? If the patient didn’t believe in God, then the question should have been no more offensive than the nurse asking whether she could send the patient a “get well soon…” card. Or asking them if they wanted to see a Unicorn, or ask Santa Claus to pay them a visit early…

Or am I just talking crazy?