May 8, 2008

The Nobility of Atheism

As a philosophical stance on the question of god(s), atheism is more than just the default position. There is a certain nobility in bucking tradition, appeals to authority, and the pressures of social conformity to permit reason and evidence to influence one's worldview. Even while recognizing that there are multiple paths to atheism, there is a certain shared joy that comes from living in accordance with reality.

In a recent rant by at, Bob Patterson wrote:
For reasons not easily understood, humans seem to have a basic need to want to believe that an invisible, omnipotent and omniscient deity -- one that is entirely responsible for everything and that demands our unquestioning devotion, obedience and respect for everything good that happens -- is watching over us.
We can talk about the irrationality and sheer absurdity of such a belief system until we are blue in the face, but it does reveal a simple truth about humanity. Religious belief seems to have always been part of the human psyche. Some argue that we are hard-wired for it, but regardless of whether this is accurate, it is difficult to deny that religious belief is part of the human condition.

And yet, an equally simple truth prevents us from falling into some sort of fatalistic acceptance of religion - there are atheists. We have managed to transcend religion and learned to interact directly with reality. In spite of the pressure we experience to conform to a magical worldview, we do not. We find appeals to authority or tradition lacking and see little reason to grant religious beliefs some special status whereby they are immune from reason, logic, or science. We may pay a price for our defiance, but we do so with open eyes.

When it comes to religious belief, Bob asks, "Can there possibly be a more noble or honest position than atheism?" I don't think so.

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