I remember that when I used to blog over at Debunking Christianity for John Loftus, all those years ago, even then, he would often declare that he had nothing left to say that he hadn’t already said. The volumes of writing he had done both on the Internet and in book form meant that he had exhausted his writing, theological and philosophical reserves. And then he would come back and get a second wind, or a third wind (see also Keith Parsons).
At the time, in my newfound excitement, I found this quite surprising, but I have experienced the same feeling several times. I have written over 3000 blog posts and countless books and have given a whole range of different public talks and I often think I’ve said everything that I have to say. There’s nothing new left for me to say, and anything that I haven’t already said, some other blogger or philosopher of religion has stated it probably better than I could.
Oddly enough, I’ve actually got a second wind right now. I actually have quite a few blog posts lined up, if I don’t forget them; I just need to find time to write them. I do, however, as you have undoubtedly noticed, find it easier to write on politics at the moment because it is so tangible, so imminent, so bloody worrying and so interesting. Philosophy can all too often become very abstract without any obvious connection to everyday life and reality, especially when talking about a non-existent god.
I sort of referenced this a few weeks ago in a previous blog post, but I am also absolutely sure of my atheism. There is not one modicum, not one iota of doubt in my mind because my philosophy is absolutely built on sound foundations. This is why I often complain about theists and, for example, gun rights advocates who start their project from their conclusion and try to work backwards: I like guns. It is written into the Constitution that I can bear arms. It is connected to the Bill of Rights. It is a natural right to do so because…did I mention the Consitution and the Bill of Rights? Job done.
Hang on there, sunshine. What is a right? What ontology does it have? Where does it exist? Is there another realm in which abstract ideas exist? How do you know what is a right and what is not? All of these questions need coherently answering befor the rest can even hope to follow. Don’t start with the conclusion that you just have the right to bear arms because it’s written on an old piece of paper. That doesn’t cut the mustard with me.
The same with religion. People will argue back from the Bible, or back from a belief they have inherited from their parents and scrabble around to post hoc rationalise. I have changed my mind on pretty much every major philosophical conclusion in my life because I have made it my life’s work to follow the evidence to a conclusion. I chose to start questioning all of the beliefs that I had inherited and believed.
I remember the moment I started properly doing this. I was at university and had bought the Daily Telegraph to read in the student’s union because, well, my father used to read the Daily Telegraph. I read an article on something that I wasn’t particularly interested in and ended up having an argument with someone about the topic that the article covered. I ended up vehemently defending the position that the writer in the Daily Telegraph took and the conclusions he claimed, not based on anything other than the fact I had just read it in that particular newspaper. I had an epiphany because, at that moment, I realised how psychological I could be. I didn’t particularly care about that subject I was arguing about, but was just arguing that position because I’d somehow taken ownership over that position by reading it in a newspaper I had chosen to buy, which I had only chosen to buy because my father read the same newspaper.
Holy crap! What else in my life was I not being rational about? What other positions was I blindly defending without questioning my own defence? That was when I started becoming skeptical, when I started understanding the need to be rational in defending any position I took. And it is when I started diverging away from what my parents believed and not because I wanted to diverge from my parents but because that was where the evidence was taking me. And given the conversation I had today with them, I can safely say that I certainly have a much sounder grip on reality!
I used to believe in God. I used to believe in free will. I used to believe a completely different thing about morality than I do now. I used to believe in a soul. I used to be something of a conservative. I used to be anti-immigration. I used to have different views on homosexuality. The list is long and varied. What is important here is that there are no gaping holes in my wall of thoughts. Those bricks are laid soundly one on top of another, until the wall is complete. My wall is complete and is nowhere in its is a brick engraved with the word “God”.
There is no hope or faith in my wall. I have no need for those bricks. It is just sensible philosophy and evidence built up from the foundational bricks concerning abstract ideas that lead me to adopt the philosophical and political positions I presently do. Yes, I may still change. But given what I know now, I do get frustrated that other human beings have the same access to this knowledge and rationality, and yet they conclude so antithetically. I am, for example, absolutely astonished – and I mean properly astounded – that people respect and support Donald Trump. Yes, I am sounding like a stuck record, but I am truly amazed because to me he is so obviously one thing, but to so very many other people, he is something utterly different. And the same can be said with God. I am not privy to any different information, knowledge, rational arguments and so on than the next person. And yet I am really certain that God doesn’t exist, whilst the next person is home churching every Sunday and blathering on about salvation through Christ.
Of course, belief is psychological. You can’t reason people out of positions they never reason themselves into in the first place. I get that. But, my, it frustrates me.
TL;DR – why aren’t more people sensible, like me? ;)
[I know the answer, it’s just annoying.]
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