The great Existential question anyone must contemplate when becoming an Atheist is- Can you find meaning in a piece of toast with no face of Jesus.
On becoming atheist - the tug of war
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This was an interesting thread to look back on....I have travelled far in the last twelve months....I have travelled from belief to non belief...and I finally understand what Nickolas said in his opening post....
Here's were the dichotomy happens. Once you start on the road to atheism and insist on learning about things that are substantiated by evidence and observation it becomes more and more difficult to believe a) or b), or whatever flavour of b). At the same time, you still want to believe at least some variant of b), because it is hard to contemplate that you and your loved ones, beginning at some point in the very near future, will never see one another again. The undeniable fact of the matter is your future awaits. It could be soon, it could be many years away, but next to eternity it is not even a blink of time. You will either die from trauma or disease of some kind or slowly by decrepitation. And then the lights just go out. For a theist, as I once was, it is a frightening thing even to contemplate, let alone make a concerted attempt to understand. But that understanding eventually does come when you finally put aside what you are afraid of.
And then you find peace and you find wonderment in learning about and understanding how the world really works. The truth is far, far more fascinating and enthralling than any of those ancient fables.
I think Deism is a better, more natural choice, ie, reject religion but believe in a non-personal creator. People can quite logically reject belief in a personal God (ie, a God who hears and answers prayers and intervenes in human affairs) because of the evidential arguments from evil for atheism (generally referred to as the Problem of Evil).
Such philosophical arguments for atheism are a much stronger attack on belief in any classical definition of God than science can mount. Science can never entirely rule out the existence of a higher creator being that doesn't fit the Biblical version of what God is.
It may be a better more natural choice for you yadda...but the thing is..I don't believe it.. It really doesn't matter to me at this stage what science can or can't rule out. If one day science proves a god is real or I have some revelation that I can't deny, I'll take another squiz, until then...I see no point in making myself believe somthing I just don't.
I do find god belief interesting, especially the way my mind used to work when I believed. I use that as a measuring stick to see how much I am realating to reality now. And how many old habbits still slip into my way of thinking. Old habbits die hard...so do old beliefs and behaviours.
I totally understand your position 'still thinking'. If you are coming at it from the need to have direct evidence then that's entirely reasonable. When Bertrand Russell was asked if he was wrong and he went to heaven after he died, what would be the first thing he would say to God, he said,"Not enough evidence God, not enough evidence!" It's completely rational to suspend your belief in the absence of direct evidence.
Sometimes these things come down to definitions about what atheist, agnostic means and what is evidence and what isn't. I call myself a Deist because although I agree there is no direct evidence of God (I say that with great caution because I believe there is undeniable evidence of the supernatural), to my mind a totally naturalistic, materialistic explanation of everything is unsatisfactory. So I'm not quite agnostic, which is someone who feels we cannot say with certainty either way given the current evidence. I feel there is a strong possiblity there is something in the nature of 'God' out there but which doesn't comfortably fit the way ancient scripture portrays God to be. I hold that position for philosphical reasons, because of the 'Problem of Evil' rather than scientific reasons. In fact, I think our current level of scientific understanding is hopelessly immature to even begin to rule out the possibility of a higher creative intelligence (Einstein would agree).
In fact, I think our current level of scientific understanding is hopelessly immature to even begin to rule out the possibility of a higher creative intelligence (Einstein would agree).
Einstein apparently believed in a deistic God, which is not surprising when you consider he:
1) was a physicist (a physical scientist, not a life sciences guy, eg biologist)
2) lived at the turn of the last century, long before DNA was discovered, solid fossil evidence existed, etc. Einstein also believed in historic Jesus, which has been challenged by recent scholarship
3) was raised as Jewish, living in a time of incredible anti-semitism in Europe.
His being a famous Jew was upsetting enough to some, and he no doubt saw the treatment dished out for the atheist physicist/psychologist Sigmund Freud (an Austrian Jew who was able to escape Vienna before WW2 under international pressure, but only by signing a statement that the Nazis had not ill-treated him. Freud signed, adding the comment, “I can most highly recommend the Gestapo to everyone”—Ich kann die Gestapo jedermann auf das beste empfehlen). No doubt Einstein didn't need that kind of stress in his life, and wisely chose to stay quiet. He even reacted against claims he was an atheist, by saying he was essentially agnostic.
The interesting (but quite pointless) speculation is to ask if famous scientists in history (DaVinci, Galileo, Newton, etc) would be atheists today, given the evidence that now exists, plus a cultural environment that is more tolerant for atheists (although, it's not THAT friendly: a poll shows that in countries where religious beliefs prevail, people trust rapists moreso than atheists).
I agree there is no direct evidence of God (I say that with great caution because I believe there is undeniable evidence of the supernatural)
Care to offer this "undeniable evidence"?
I would have to disagree with you on whether Einstein would agree. Einstein was an agnostic bordering on atheist. When he said something about a great intelligence seen in the universe, he was not referring to an entity but to the inherent logic of math and physics. The Watchtower loves to use that quote as a basis for showing that "even Einstein" believed in God, when in fact he didn't. Still I can sympathize and am even a bit envious about your choice to be a deist. It's such a comforting thing to have and to expect that in the end we will go one. It's a wonderful delusion.
I came late to this discussion. But throughout, I've seen a lot of interesting suggestions about what we are and how we become one thing or another. That only reaffirmed my long standing idea that when born we are a blank slate. We learn to be deists or a kind person or a genius or a psychopathic killer. That does not exclude the fact that we have genetic predispositions that make us more suitable for one thing or another. But, our environment is at least 50% of the equation.
After decades of being very close to classical music (the piano) and seeing other children exposed to it, I came to the conclusion that Mozart or Schubert or Chopin were not genetically prescribed to be what they became. They weren't born being who they became. They were made and chiseled by their environment. Of course their environment would have amounted to nothing if they didn't have some ability to begin with. But I think that most humans have that potential at the start. If Michelangelo had been born in the jungles of the Amazon there would have been no Michelangelo. He needed a medium and the environment to become what he was.
Therefore, I think about the differences between not being taught deism and not being taught evolution. They put out quite different results. But in both cases, the individual may exhibit a desire for either one. It is in the nature of being human to think about such things. Indeed, besides the intellect to ask, we have a innate sense of the spiritual in our brains. That's why you won't find a society now or ever that hasn't had some sort of deistic ritual or belief.
Ultimately, I think it is those individual differences, both genetic and environmental, that makes someone like me to prefer being resigned to the idea that we are finite and will disappear forever, rather than have some unfounded hope that somehow we will have the chance to live on pending on what a being we never associate with does. Besides, I think there's still hope that somewhere in the distant future, science may find a way of "retrieving" people out of some universal time-line and have them come back to continue with their lives, hopefully in a better situation. Hey, that's like -- Resurrection!