24 October 2011
Nobody Knows Nothin'- The Problem With Atheism
So, I was thinking about God this morning, (I'm trying to develop new material for a stand-up act, and He's usually a rich vein to tap), when it occurred to me that I'm not sure what I believe anymore. I, like many America-hating, Left-wing Marxists, (or non-Republican, as we're also called), had been drifting towards being a non-believer for years. But, is what I've developed a belief-system (or non-belief system), or just a reaction to the current state of God in America?
Don't get me wrong- I'm still generally repulsed by religion- most all religions. How many people's lives have been made miserable and how many have been killed based on the God-said-this-is-our-land-not-yours bullshit of the last few thousand years? How much knowledge has been delayed or stifled completely because it ran against the teachings of the church and its laws based on faery tales? But most religions probably have very little to do with God, anyway, so just hating religion is no reason not to believe in God.
I feel for Christians in America who don't happen to be Right-wing nut jobs. It must be incredibly frustrating (as it must be for fiscal conservatives of the old Republican party) to see your organization usurped by the worst kinds of people. To see the teachings of Christ be bastardized to serve their agenda of greed, fear, racism, small mindedness, pettiness, and lust for power.
To be sure, religious groups in America and around the world have also provided immeasurable assistance to the most needy of society. But so have non-religious groups. It would be nice if our motivation to help our fellow man came from the fact that it's the Right Thing to Do, and not out of searching for Some Great Reward or trying to stay out if hell.
In our recent political climate in America, religion is playing a larger role than it has in years. The Right is driving this trend, with their litmus tests for potential candidates that dictate they must be deeply religious, have a general skepticism for science, and an extremely conservative view on social matters including immigration, marriage, family planning, and welfare for the poor. They have all but claimed that God is on their side, insinuating that the Left is Godless, and therefore inherently immoral, and wishes to turn America into a Godless, communist society. By playing this Fear Card, the Right preys (prays?) on the emotions of its fastest growing base- the masses who aren't clever enough to realized they're being used by the leaders of their party, whose real God is only money, anyway. As the Right and the Church in America basically merge into one corporation, (with Fox 'News' as their pulpit), they use the same techniques the Church has employed for centuries- fear of the unknown, moral superiority and indignation of others, and the Some Great Reward to follow. (You, too, will someday be rich beyond your wildest dreams, if we can just get rid of these Marxist government regulations and the EPA! Also, we need to lower the taxes on the rich. You don't want the government taking your hard earned money when you become rich, do you? And you're gonna be rich really soon, we promise! It's the American way! Now, better get moving- you're late for your shift at Walmart).
Given this being the state of God in America, the desire to reject the ridiculousness of it all is understandable. However, the political systems of America, or anywhere else, also really have little to do with God. Over the course of human existence, our idea of God has changed, but its main purpose has remained the same- to define the undefinable and unknowable. To wrap our brains around the Big Questions of where everything came from and why it, and we, are here. So, one of the arguments for atheism is that we created God to help us answer these questions. This may indeed be true. But, it may not. Who knows?
And that's the problem- believing there's no God is just as presumptuous as believing you know exactly what God is. Nobody really knows. Just like religion, it's a belief system, not based on any knowable facts. Another argument for atheism is the lack of empirical evidence of God, or the argument that the burden of proof is on the theist to prove the existence of God, not the atheist to disprove it. But this to me seems to be a cop out. One could argue that the universe itself is empirical evidence of God. (And, no, I'm not speaking of Intelligent Design). Either Everything There Is just always Was, or something created it. And, if the universe just always Was, without being created, isn't that in and of itself, rather God-like?
Before I get responses telling me how wrong I am about my definition of atheism, understand that this is how I perceive the the problem for me. If you're 100% sure that no God exists, fine. Just explain to me how you know. How you know for a fact that nothing created the universe, it just always Was. Because that's the part I can't get around. Also, just because I believe in God doesn't mean I think He believes in us, or has any day-to-day influence over all the decisions we make as free willed, sentient people. Or heaven and hell, the afterlife, or prayer, or anything else that inevitably gets wrapped up in discussions about God. I'm talking about God, not religion. Two totally different things. Really, I'm talking about semantics of atheist vs. agnostic. I'm sure that I agree with 99.9% of the arguments my atheist friends would present.
All right, I'm off for a 10 mile run now, God help me. If I twist an ankle, I'll be sure and let you know, so all you religious types can whistle a happy tune at my ironic comeuppance.