2010-07-17

Atheism is a religion

Sometimes I find myself saying the same words over and over, to different people in varying circumstances. Each time I say them, my voice becomes angrier and more abrupt, and before the 100th repetition I am practically yelling, either in tone or in spirit. Before that happens---and it's not too far off---I'll write the words here (and in the title) for my contemporaries and posterity to read at their leisure:

Atheism is a religion.

That's right. Saying "there is no God" is exactly as strong of a statement as "there is a God". The rules of logic (i.e. common sense) do not allow both a statement and its negation to be true. Likewise, if a statement ("there is a God") cannot be proven true or false, its negation ("there is no God") also cannot be proven true or false. Therefore, one cannot snicker at deists and ask, "where's your proof?" while proclaiming to be an atheist.

I present for evidence a comment from the often thought-provoking blog Blag Hag:

You don't have to "prove" god isn't behind evolution, just like you don't have to "prove" leprechaun's aren't behind it. Evolution works as described. If you want to insert an undetectable director into it, the burden of proof is on you. [from this post]

I have yet to find fault with the logic of Blag Hag's author (she's exceptionally open-minded and rational), but her commenters often tell a different story. The "burden of proof", as this commenter so aptly put it, is not "on you". The burden of proof is, in fact, nowhere. No one has to prove anything to anyone. That is precisely what separates belief from fact.

I'm not saying that the above comment is wrong. Under certain contexts, this comment could indeed be correct, but for that we would have to assume that the unwavering goal of the other party is to scientifically prove the existence of God (a goal for which very few people in this world actually strive), and in addition to that, we would need a proper definition of a "god", among other things.

On the other hand, if we assume that the commenter I've been using as a scapegoat is not quite an atheist, but is instead a mere skeptic or agnostic, the perspective changes quite a bit, but the question remains the same: who must prove what to whom, and why? The answer is quite often the same: no one must prove anything.

Every time I find myself in the middle of a discussion between self-proclaimed atheists (often scientist-types who reject religion) and theists, I liken it to an argument between two fruit salesman in a marketplace:

Apple salesman: My apples are better than your oranges.
Orange salesman: You're wrong. My oranges are tastier than your apples.
Apple salesman: How illogical! My apples are much more enjoyable than your oranges.
Orange salesman: Poppycock!

Science deals in facts, and religion deals in beliefs. Neither is better than the other; they are merely different thoughts that we have the option of enjoying. The hybrid cocktails, scientific belief and religious skepticism, are useless. The first leads to statements which are wrong, and the second causes speech no one cares to hear, and which accomplishes nothing. Why not deny both? Let facts prove facts and let our imaginations determine our beliefs.

A fact will never prove a belief, and believing a fact is meaningless. By definition---whichever definition---a god is on a different plane of existence than we. There, only our beliefs dare go where fact cannot. Therefore, I say, believe and let believe. Prove and let be proven. Do not confuse the two. Whatever the belief, it is a waste of time, energy, and the lives of religious soldiers to argue and fight over proof of beliefs. Know simply that it cannot be done.

Atheists, unfortunately, often find themselves on the same soapboxes from which their rivals earlier endured anti-deist jeers. That is, atheists take time away from more productive pursuits to tell others that they are wrong. In my arguments with atheists, more often than not their strongest argument against religion relied on citing some measure of detrimental effects of organized religion on mankind. In every case, the detrimental effects had nothing to do with deism and everything to do with antagonistic leaders and blind followers. Atheists, they are our common enemies.

Here is one of the many ways that an episode of South Park, Go, God. Go!---in which rival atheist sects rule the world of the future---said it perfectly:

Shvek [member of the Unified Atheist League]: Our answer to the Great Question is the only logical one. Our Science is great. Let us not forget the great Richard Dawkins who finally freed the world of religion long ago. Dawkins knew that logic and reason were the way of the future. But it wasn't until he met his beautiful wife that he learned using logic and reason isn't enough. You have to be a dick to everyone who doesn't think like you. Prepare all the troops! We will level the United Atheist Alliance to the ground!

Atheism is a belief, and the idea that it is somehow related to science is as false as the religious "facts" from which it intends to save the world. Adopting any other standpoint causes only needless and harmful antagonism, the root of all religious evil.

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