Not so long ago, it seemed as though atheism was a marginal thing. Not believing in God was this hip new thing, this counter-culture belief of not surrendering all your critical thoughts to an ultimate being, that asks nothing from you other than your unthinking existence. Eventually, logical positivists incurred a new form of belief: That of being supported by evidence.
In one word? Confirmation bias. So long as you can have evidence supporting your claims, you can be considered of sound mind. Now, of course evidence has taken many forms over the last century and in 2016, I can safely say that “evidence” is what a quick google search sums up for you.There used to be a kind of intellectual integrity to being an atheist. It was this notion that it just doesn’t make sense for God to exist. People could rationalize, on their own, that God was a logical impossibility.
I cannot definitely say that God does not exist, but my experience as an agnostic, is that there is little evidence for God simply because God has yet to be defined in terms which warrant evidence. You often hear how God is as substantial as the existence of leprechauns. Well, at least oompa-loompas can be falsified, you see? You could expect to find them in some secret cave or worse yet, you could hear singing not belonging to normal human beings. There is a rational idea of what oompa-loompas are, and they can be falsified as to their existence.
No, what “evidence” comes down to, with regards to God, is how well you can reason with the world around you. A mind that is set in stone for metaphysical beliefs will not be able to reconciliate “evidence-based” beliefs, such as Scientism, for example. What it will be able to do is wedge any further “evidence” as “evidence” of its own belief. Much as we would like to believe that evidence is objective and does not care about individual points of view, it turns out life is a bit more complicated than that.
Yes, you are technically correct, but let’s say you’re this one child in a party full of dumb adults. The game is a guessing game, which you all play, and then there’s a question only YOU know the answer of. Well, despite your best efforts, and your best arguments, you’ve been trumped by a simple retort:
“You’re just a kid. What do you know?”
That’s basically what goes on in a believer’s head, when you try to convince them that their belief is utterly false, because of the evidence. You are essentially telling them that your belief is better than theirs, and as they believe themselves to answer to a higher authority, your paltry evidence holds little waters in the face of Creation. That is why atheists struggle to get through to so many theists, because they preach the Gospel of Scientism and Skepticism, as if believing in Science and being Skeptical of things, no matter what they are, is the only way to live life.
These people are happy, despite all the evidence you can provide them that their belief is false. Why should they abandon blind happiness for the sorrow of reality? What do you have to replace that with? Being a hateful little atheist who wants nothing but to see religion die? That’s just not going to work. You will be just like this little child trying to yell louder than the adults that you are right… And you are, but you simply won’t convince anyone by being just another loudmouth in the lot.
I often posit that the ideal way for an atheist to “deconvert” a believer, would be to reach out to them, with a “reasonable hand”, as in through empathy. Oh sure, you might think that you should shock people out of belief, and this strategy likely worked with a handful of people. Scaring people into unbelief though, is using the exact same paradigm as before, to scare them into a new belief and this time, it is the belief of meritocracy:
What holds merit will be upheld as the one true thing. You’ve heard that one before, right? This is simple faith, and it is evidence-based faith; that the evidence will ALWAYS provide the means by which you can criticize religion. Again, you may be technically correct, but as history has shown, keeping religion down has only ever served to make it rise up with a vengeance. (Christian uprising, during the Roman empire, Islamic Caliphate, Iranian Islamic Revolution, Marxist-Leninism (oops!))
So in order to defy a person’s reason, you must appeal to it first. This is a technique of rhetorical arts, called “Hide your conclusion”.
Hide your conclusion from your opponent till the end. Mingle your premises here and there in your talk. Get your opponent to agree to them in no definite order. By this circuitious route you conceal your game until you have obtained all the admissions that are necessary to reach your goal.
Obviously, demonstrating this to be your goal would show you as the dishonest and disgracious person you are, and ultimately, showing this to be your end-goal would kill any chance of a friendship you might have with this person. Would you consider this an ethically justifiable evil? Perhaps, I know many atheists would, if it meant thinning the ranks of the theists.
At this point, I think we’ve been shown through the last century that despite overwhelming evidence of the existence of a material reality, theists will persist in believing what they wish to, and no amount of “evidence” will convince them otherwise. So what will you do? Wage war on them? Ostracize them for their beliefs? Can’t think of when I heard that one before…
No, most atheists do in fact promote ideals of peace and friendship, so long as religion is not being spoken about. In a way, you might think that they have a reason for being so vitriolic toward religious folks, because of the way they’ve been treated for so long, but very recent history shows that atheists are gaining in rank. People are doubting more and more their religion, partly because we live in a world of information and most information is readily available at one’s fingertips, if one but knows where to look.
Still, to come to this mindset, the person investigating their belief and potential unbelief must be welcome to the notion of being wrong. That normally will come from spending enough time in philosophic contemplation and being shown with compelling enough evidence to make one renounce their beliefs. However, the end to belief should NOT be the end of the means, it should be the beginning of something greater.
I find atheists are rather complacent in their assimilation of theists who abandon faith, and instead convert them in another vitriolic professional internet skeptic. That’s probably why despite growing numbers of unbelievers, no one appears willing to tackle belief as aggressively as the Lawrence Krausses and Richard Dawkinses and Degrasse Tysons of this world would like us to. Superstitious belief is at the core of human hatred (which is one of the main elements of my book), and it is imperative that we get rid of any such superstitious beliefs.
However, I find that it is much more superstitious to presume that theists will be capable to deal with life, without having a spiritual calling. Sure, they don’t biologically NEED one, but there is a much greater issue, when you rip apart a person’s life, and tell them reality is much more bleak and much shittier. Because no matter how much you want to claim that nature’s randomness and chaos make it what it is, theists crave order.
A universe under the calling of God has purpose – PURPOSE – an extremely important argument for reason. When something has no purpose, then it bears no importance, it does not require anything to keep on living. Many theists will of course recognize that there is no necessity for purpose or at least it changes depending on the human being. I personally find myself respecting theists more than atheists, of late.
Why, do you think? Because I can have civil discussions about a theist’s belief. I cannot say the same about atheists’ unbelief. They are much more willing to bear fangs at me about my questioning than theists are. I’ve been capable of taking a stroll with a Christian and casually debate the validity of their beliefs, all the while laughing and joking. Not one fist was thrown and not one logical fallacy was used to try to overthrow the opposition.
We both came out of this enriched.
My conclusion? You will get your secularist society if you only argue with REASON rather than blindly cock-slapping theists’ faces with evidence, as if your belief in this evidence should be all they need to swallow your self-righteous load. Because in the end, the only thing you truly seek is the acceptance of those who do not share your lack of belief. You know that without it, you won’t be able to express yourself about it, and this thought might be scary, now that you’ve extracted yourself from the depths of Plato’s cave (part 7 of Plato’s Republic).
Here’s how I can quickly run down the concept of the cave.
- At first, there is darkness, and a perceived motion in said darkness, from the shadows cast by an unknown source. These shadows are thought to be metaphysical creatures beyond our reach. They should be feared. They are to be worshipped. (this is superstitious belief)
- Our shackles are removed, and now we get to move freely around the cave. (Reality-testing begins here, where we begin to re-interpret our reality, based on new experience)
- We see that there is light beyond the cave. A brilliant light, almost blindingly so. We step out toward it. (Emergence, revelation, epiphany, wonderment.)
- A new plateau of knowledge has been presented to us. It is now up to us to continue our ascension, lest we return back to step 1 of the cave, back into a new darkness. That is essentially where our illusion of justified true belief clashes with reality, and thus gets us to return to our nasty habits of seeking confirmation bias, seeking fear, seeking comfort in known areas.
This is why I believe one of philosophy’s greatest fields of study has to be epistemology. Because at every turn, what we think to be true could become absolutely false, and we must be welcome to this idea. This is why I consider myself an agnostic; because to know whether I believe or not in God, I would need to know God. If I did know God, then he would exist, and to a key, he does… As a form of coach-spirit for the masses, guiding them to do good, because life is utterly frightening.
If you want to convert theists away from God, be that coach. Don’t be the naive rescuer who extricates them from the flames, and leaves them on the pavement, to fend with the lonely city streets with nothing but their thumb and a torn blanket. Humans are fragile, and they require much more than a reality check: They need help, genuine, caring help. They don’t need you to tell them God doesn’t exist.
Primarily, they require a purpose, and if you can provide them with purpose, God or no God, they will follow you.