A natural disposition for faith?
One of the very litigious but pragmatically pointless questions that can be asked about faith is: “Are babes born atheists or theists?” It bears as much relevance to a self-declared agnostic, such as myself, as the intriguing debate which William James encountered on a stroll. The story goes as follows:
William James went on a trip with friends and during that trip, went on his own, for a moment, to contemplate things (and stuff). Upon returning from this little adventure in philosophic contemplation, James saw his friends vigorously arguing about a metaphysical dichotomy: If a man chases a squirrel, whose belly is stuck to a tree, and moves at the same time as this man, is the man running circles around the squirrel?
His response ultimately was to say that it made no difference for either party to be right or wrong. Now, of course, you may see where I’m going with this and thinking: How can you POSSIBLY say that the same thing can be said of God’s existence? You’d be correct, of course. Can I honestly say that God’s existence does not matter, in the end? Too much has been done in the name of a supposed God’s existence to not want to actually prove God’s inexistence.
Well, my counter-argument to this is that for all our scientific discoveries, us unbelievers are rather convinced that God may very well not exist – at least, not in the way the religions describe him to us – and as such, we’ve got all the evidence we need for our unbelief or disbelief. Yet, the same cannot be said for theists, whom despite being presented with a plethora of evidence, still find another area which science has yet to thread, to then claim God can still exist. Even then, some arguments that I’ve heard from theists ascertain that even if the Abrahamic religions turned out to be wrong, there’s still a million other faiths to prove wrong. Some, which it would prove to be a bit harder than others.
The protagonists of the “atheist baby” claim thus that like the tabula rasa, children that have just emerged from the womb, lack the necessary complicated neurological brainpower to imagine an ontological deity. Therefore, to a baby, God does not exist, because they do not know what a God even is. This argument has failings which can make us go round and round in circles, chasing the necessary agreement (or squirrel) to end the debate. I will not go there.
I agree on the whole that a baby is unlikely to even know what a God could possibly be, and thus the claim of theists that the baby is illuminated with God’s light but forgets about it during childhood is rather weak. As a hypothesis, it does not survive the neurobiological understanding of the brain. It is only past a certain age that children are capable of making complex abstractions of reality, and thus imagine (or not) a God existing. As such, I believe neither side are right nor are they wrong, which makes the debate void on practical grounds. (To reiterate: It is not possible for a child to even complexify the thoughts necessary to point out God’s existence until a certain age, so babies being unknowing of God means we cannot make a definite claim on this, other than to say they do not know.)
God Is or isn’t
This is another “cream of the crop” reason to debate God’s existence. Can he both simultaneously exist and not exist? Theists say that he can and thus atheists respond with: It is a logical paradox; something cannot both exist and not exist. I agree once more, here, but the problem with such an argument, on rhetorical grounds and philosophical grounds as well, is it does not speak to the metaphysical leanings of theists. Theists tend to require a purpose, and thus their logic is that God exists, it is simply a matter of finding him. That is why they say he can both exist and not exist.
However, a response to this is of course that God being mysteriously present for the privileged and absent for the underprivileged shows that he is either an egotistical bastard or that he is racist / sexist. I don’t think this bears any relevance, as once again, the squirrel can be seen as being spun around and spinning around. As a matter of perspective, theists will not find any such claim convincing either. Can we move on from this question? It seems we will not until science discovers all that there is to be known. Most of us will be dead by then, so I disagree that God’s existence is relevant to any debate about reality.
Rather, what we can safely assert is that God has nothing to do with most things that happen in our universe. Perhaps he did swing the pendulum on the first go-around, but after this, the universe simply kicked into gear. That on its own means that we do not need to depend on God to understand the workings of the universe, including human interactions. We can however use God’s followers’ wisdom to reach across the pond and live together in a happy little kumbaya dance.
“What wisdom?” I hear you object. Well, if there’s one thing I know it is that there is an unfortunate aftereffect to atheists supposedly gaining the upper-hand in terms of growth, with regards to belief and unbelief. That is the effect of a lack of leadership. Religion has charismatic figures to back itself. Atheism has the Four grand sages of Scientism, who preach a gospel no one dares to question. Sam Harris has a book called “The Bible of Atheism”, supposedly debunking the many ignoramuses of religion. I find that writing a book of the sort is a massive waste of time, because all that this does is leave a vacuum for which other people can profit.
At this point, the Four are the ones profitting from this momentum, by selling their books and meeting in clever little conferences about how theists are just so gosh-darn stupid. Do you even science, bro? I joined in this for a long time, and I found it very important to spread awareness of science, but recent years have convinced me that the only science awareness that this has spread is a confirmation bias for atheists. Science that confirms a lack of God is the only one that is really talked about, and thus used as an example for “real science”.
Despite the science, there is something my generation lacks and what it lacks is direction. Aside from sitting on their armchairs and laughing wildly at Ray Comfort’s banana video, they do little else. I don’t find much inspiration in just making fun of God claims and then just… sitting there, staring at theists who keep on living their lives regardless. There’s a field of science that is largely forgotten and that would greatly help atheists achieve their goal of spreading an understanding of science, and unfortunately, they spit on it like they do theology.
To go back to my theist friends however, there isn’t really an effort being deployed to justify God’s existence, and as such, those in power are still the religious and you can tell by the way America is having trouble deciding between a corrupt politician and a mad billionaire; there just isn’t enough care. The spirituality of secularism is so bankrupt, that the cynicism of America has literally pushed its elections on the same level as The Kardashians (or whatever other reality TV show you can muster). Venom is spat across two ideological ridges, like this is the trench wars all over again, yet no one reaches across.
As such, we could safely assert that other than creating a third, non-influential idea of spirituality, atheists have not provided much of a difference to this world. Rather, their most prominent figures are now the target of social justice movements. The rhetoric that worked with religion is failing considerably against the rest of the world. I can only assume that it will not take long for a right-wing extremist to ignite a very dangerous conflict.
So, does God exist? Yes and no. To atheists, he does not, to theists he does. Like the squirrel, his existence is relevant only to the point where you’re trying to prove a point. Regardless of whether he does or not, your fight will never be over; superstition abounds in our societies, and finding out whether God exists or not is just the tip of the iceberg, but the amount of efforts deployed to win this debate serves as a massive distraction to the real issues on this planet.
Spirituality is the key
The only real vocation that philosophy can bring about, in this day and age, is an extension of the bridge between belief and unbelief. I find myself to be in a very comfortable position of not having to justify a claim I have not made: I do not think God does not exist, nor do I think that he does, I simply do not know. I join the famous Neil DeGrasse Tyson on this subject (not to up myself, but just to give an example of a famous agnostic), as I think the question of God’s existence relates to its substance. My claim on God is that in order for me to know whether he exists, I must know what he is. As it turns out, many faiths have a God that is so vague that he could very well exist, but has so little influence on the workings of the world, that it’s a pointless existence.
What religion does and has that atheism does not, however, is structure: Steeped in millenias of tradition, certain religions provide security to the mind of human beings who would be lost without it. Taking that away from them would necessarily mean taking everything from them. Humans like to have purpose, and atheists usually respond to such a worry with: “You make your own.”
That response is not enough, to a lot of theists. Surely many could conciliate such a response with their lives and find spirituality elsewhere, but the rituals of theism are lacking in atheism. Atheists claim to be pro-science, but the science they know of usually they’ve assimilated from word of mouth or by reading controversial books on the subject. There are many atheists in science, but there are many more atheists who are pseudoscientific (and claim to be scientifically litterate) in their approach to doing science. Largely speaking, what I’m getting at here is that this lack of empathy for a fellow human’s desire for security will eventually shoot atheism in the foot.
In pushing away everything that is not a hard science, atheists lack spirituality and thus the charisma to convince theists to join their cause for a more secular world. To give a more materialistic explanation of this phenomenon, let us presume I’m a project manager at fictional company called G.I.T solutions. I get my project ready without even consulting the client, arrive there and tell them:
“This is what you need, based on our analysis of your company. Our project will be 96 days long and will cost 40,000$. You’ll probably lose some clients as a result, but trust us, our solution is the best, and will provide the better dividends in the end.”
Naturally, the words “losing clients” are alarming, to my client, who responds with:
“What do you mean, I’ll lose some clients? We’re a small company, we can’t afford to lose any.”
I then respond with:
“What are you, stupid? I’ve got all the best experts backing me on this. This project cannot fail.”
My client now knows I’m most likely right, but my delivery was so bad that he no longer wants to do business with me. Thus began and ended the first debate between an atheist and a theist. Many more such exchanges were to follow, and eventually, both sides just went back across the trenches and continued to fling poo at one another, like territorial monkeys.
Had I approached them in a way that permitted me to keep their confidence in me, my clients would not have blacklisted me. As such, atheists are ever-defiant of theists and vice-versa. Atheists are technically correct, but the delivery of their sales pitch to theists lacks structure, it lacks confidence. It makes up for that in plenty of arrogance. Furthermore, atheists are asking theists to trust them solely on faith, that their lack of belief will make them better human beings.
Seeing as most atheists lack a proper philosophical training, they also lack a proper discourse with which to enthrall theists to their cause. Therefore, if the first fallacious claim against God is not accepted, atheists resort to insults to hammer their point home or other fallacious claims, such as the fallacy of composition, and so on, and so forth… The point here is of course that proving whether God exists or not is not relevant. What is important is to get theists to understand science as atheists do, and live their lives accordingly: Not to see humans of a different faith as inherently inferior, but rather other people to share religious truths with. It does not matter who is right or wrong, it matters that we share our belief and lack of belief, in as meaningful a way as possible.
This is spirituality, and it is what will prevail, in the end: Not clever skepticism or reactionary ideology. Understand that some people require spiritual faith to be happy with their lives, and others do not. That is simply the way the world has always been, and it cannot be undone with a few flashy scientific facts or a quote by Hitchens, Harris, Dennett or Dawkins. There are theists who are scientifically literate and yet they still believe in a God, not out of some kind of mental retardation, but because the opposite of theism is not interesting, to them. It simply won’t do.
What wrong would it do to you to go to church with your Christian friend? Sure, you’d be bored, but at least you could spend some time with someone who does not share your lack of belief, without needing to brow-beat them for it. This is not meant to put theists on the same level as chilren with handicaps, but rather people with a desire that is perhaps alien to atheists, but intrinsically tied to a good life, for theists. Philosophers understood this, and that is why most lived not exactly caring for God’s existence, and merely took bits and pieces from science and from religious faith, to incorporate a philosophy of life worth living.
God is not a handicap, he is a way for humanity to make sense of a universe that does not.
My opinion, in closing
In my opinion? God most likely does not exist. I prefer to shape my view of reality based on the findings of science and the conjectural texts of philosophers across the ages. Surely I do not have the main picture, but no one else does either. As we are here only for a short amount of time, not believing in God seems to me as fitting as hand-in-glove, but as I said before; I simply do not know a God, and thus my claim is not one of whether he exists or not but of whether I need him or not to live my life. My conclusion is that I do not and like the squirrel around the tree, I don’t need to know whether I’m right or not.
I believe most of spiritual science and parapsychology as well as creation science are bunk. There is not much actual scientific evidence backing these disciplines and as such, I think the charlatans promoting them and anti-vaccine ideology need to be exposed. This is something I find atheists are great at, and should keep doing. We need more reasoned pastors and less Deepaks, in the spiritual world.
With much respect to Him and his creation, I prefer to find my own way to live, and I know that if a God exists, he will understand this decision. He will understand yours as well, if you choose to abandon some of the precepts you find less comfortable about your faith. I guarantee you.
*Kicks Pascal down the stairs, before he opens his filthy fucking mouth*