[Turing] Atheist Answer #3

[Turing] Atheist Answer #3 July 4, 2011

This post is part of the Ideological Turing Test Challenge. Go to the tab above for an overview and remind yourself of the voting and commenting guidelines here.

What’s your best reason for being an atheist?

See, I hate this question, because you don’t NEED a reason to be an atheist. You don’t need to justify nonbelief, people who believe in a God need to produce a “reason” for that belief. I think it was Dawkins that started the comment of “Christians are atheists when it comes to most gods.” I wouldn’t expect Christians to be “agnostic” or “open to believing” when it comes to Zeus; they can just not believe absent any evidence, and that’s a totally fair position to have.

If I can be honest, I was raised without any belief in God, and while I definitely have from time to time wondered about a higher power behind certain things, my belief has looked a lot like this SMBC cartoon. The more I learn about the world, the less I feel the need for supernatural answers. We don’t know everything, but we know more and more every year.

What evidence or experience (if any) would cause you to believe in God? If you believed in some kind of god, what kind of evidence would be necessary to convince you to join a particular religion?

I’m embarrassed to admit this (hooray brief anonymity), but I don’t honestly think I would be that hard to convince, in practice. If I experienced some kind of apparition, some very real tangible evidence of God’s existence, then I think I tend much more toward belief. This is kind of a selfish perspective, since I tend to dismiss most other people’s claims of religious experience (Mary-in-the-tortilla on up) as hallucination/imagination/hoax/et al, but I’ve invested so much belief in my own santiy and perceptive abilities that I think such an experience would prove to color my views.

As for a particular religion…I really can’t see a situation in which I trust organized religion, where doctrines are obviously shifted and changed to fit people’s preferences. But I guess whatever experience I have would color that choice. Like, if I see a big bright light and hear a disembodied voice…that narrows me to a number of conceptions of God. If Jesus sits down next to me and we talk for twenty minutes, I’m probably going to lean Christian. Simple as that.

When you have ethical and moral disputes with other people, what do you appeal to? What metric do you use to examine your moral intuitions/cultural sensibilities/etc?

This is tricky, because I’m honestly kind of a nihilist when it comes to the idea of “objective morality.” I think it would be dishonest to talk about some greater meaning or virtue in this world, and I feel kind of icky when I “cheat” in conversation by using those words as tools. Basically, I have preferences that are at least mostly dictated by my brain chemistry, which happily coincide with the preferences of a lot of people around me–not least because of social construction (as it relates to notions of fairness, empathy, etc.). This preference appeal often gets the job done for me (and I think it’s what a lot of people appealing to objective morality are doing anyway).

Why is religion so persistent? We have had political revolutions, artistic revolutions, an industrial revolution, and also religious reformations of several kinds, but religion endures. Does this not suggest its basic truth?

“Religion” is a really broad term, so that’s not saying much (is Confuscianism a religion? what would it mean for it to “not be true?”), but let’s focus on a smaller category; say, those with divine beings and eternal life. I mean, people are animals, and at the end of the day, we’re just fighting to survive. Religion (or maybe just the kind I’m most familiar with) is a means of finding a way of surviving forever–or at least holding out hope for that. I think that’s a very natural desire for a species as thoughtful as we are, and I understand why these myths can feel so compelling. I guess it suggests a truth about us and our desires, but not about the world around us.

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