Being an Atheist

As you can deduce from the title of this page, I am an Atheist. My parents were not religious, though they never called themselves atheists – they just didn’t care about religion. I remember that when I was a child, my father would take me to different churches and religious tent meetings to show me pieces of the religious world. He wanted me to know what it looked like so that I knew a little more about it and could make up my own mind when I got older.

As with my parents, for many years I just ignored religion. To me, Christianity seemed rather silly, but I just didn’t really care about it. If someone asked me, I just said that I where an agnostic. My take on that was that of course I didn’t believe in God – the concept of an all-powerful God that had created Earth and myself, and who listened to everyone’s prayers (though never actually responding to any of them as far as I could tell) was just stupid to me. On the other hand, I couldn’t actually prove this, so maybe, just maybe, I could be wrong. But then again, that point was rather moot, because I just had to take a look around the world to see that even if God really existed, there was no way in hell that I would ever acknowledge him. He would have to be a psychotic bully if he existed, and I just couldn’t imagine letting someone like that have any kind of rule over me.

It was as late as fall of 2012, when I was 45 years old, that I finally understood that I was an atheist and started to call myself that. I say “understood” because it wasn’t that I changed in any way – I didn’t – it was simply this: I started reading Richard Dawkins’ book The God delusion and after just reading the introduction, I saw that I had actually been wrong in calling myself an agnostic, because I really was an atheist. Up until then I just hadn’t got the terminology right.

The God delusion didn’t change my views in any way except for this: After reading it, I understood that religion (in general) is something bad – something to actively work against. A person who for example believes in God and Jesus and (truly) does not bother anyone else about it, is just mildly deluded, and there is nothing wrong about that. However, any type of organized and/or institutionalized religion is a real danger.

Every religion there is will teach you to not use logical reasoning, because any person that do will easily see through the inane dogma of the religion. Religion will also teach you that critical thinking is a bad thing, and that you should instead blindly accept whatever it tells you. It even goes as far as to say that blind acceptance of something makes you a “good” person, which is completely insane to anyone not part of that particular religion.

There are so many things that makes religion dangerous and worth opposing, and I have just bagun to mention a few of them above. I will expand this section later and provide links to other sites that explain this better, but for now I will just recommend the book The God delusion by renowned atheist Richard Dawkins. In this book, he explains the dangers of religion, refutes any evidence that there could be a God, and proves (as far as it is possible to do so) that there can be no God – at least not the personal God of for example Christianity.

So who created the Universe, Earth and Man then?

First of all, it is important to understand that atheism is not a replacement for religion. Atheism in itself provides no explanations for anything – it just says that no gods exist – not now and not ever. Most atheists will tell you that they believe that the Universe began with the Big Bang approximately 13.7 billion years ago, that the Solar system and the Earth was “created” through the process of cosmic evolution roughly 4.5 billion years ago, and that the human race as well as every other living organism on Earth has come to be through biological evolution over hundreds of millions of years. This is the idea that I also believe in and will talk about, but as I said, it is not mandatory for an atheist to believe in any of that, though those that do not will probably just say that they simply do not know how we got here, because there really doesn’t exist any other plausible theory for an atheist.

Regarding logical reasoning and science in general

The Internet is full of people that do not understand even the basic concepts of general principles like logical reasoning and science. No, I am not making this up. Many Christians firmly believe that, if science cannot explain how and why biological evolution gave us two ears (which it of course can – I just couldn’t think of a real example), then the process of logical reasoning tells us that God must have done it. This is of course completely absurd, and there is nothing logical at all about that path of reasoning. All that this would means is that we currently do not know why we have two ears, which is perfectly ok. It does not matter if we don’t know something – it does not imply that god had anything to do with it.

If you want to know in detail what the term science means, I suggest that you look it up on Wikipedia or any other online dictionary, since I will just give you the basics.

The scientific process starts with a question about something that you want to know. For example, in the 1830’s, a young Christian biologist named Charles Darwin might have looked at is collection of specimen from nature and say to himself “I find it hard to believe that God created each one of all these wonderful variations of finches individually, so how did this diversity come to be?”.

Then you do background research related to that question. In the case of Darwin, he spent decades collecting and analyzing (literally) tons of specimen, samples and documents. Both on his own journeys, and from other people around the world who sent him even more stuff.

Based on your background research, you can then (hopefully) construct a hypothesis that answers your original question. For Darwin this was the theory of evolution through natural selection described below, though he probably did not call it exactly that at this point.

The next step is to test your hypothesis by experiments – this is where you prove your theory. Note that there are rules that govern how such experiments are to be performed, and if you do not follow them, no one in the scientific community will take you seriously. The most important rules of how to perform these experiments concerns how they must be meticulously documented, and that includes every little detail about them. The reason for this is that in science, the results of an experiment is worth nothing unless it can be repeated with the same results by other independent scientists. And this is also what happens whenever a new theory is proven and published. Lots of other scientists around the world are eager to either prove or disprove the new theory, and one way to do this is to repeat the experiments that are already performed and documented.

When the experiments are completed it is time to analyze the data and draw a conclusion, and if the evidence hold up, you can now communicate your result, which typically means publishing an article in a scientific publication. Of course, at this point you may also have discovered that the evidence did not hold up, and that your theory was wrong. This may however also be the basis of an interesting scientific article. Another scientist might read it and discover that you had made just a tiny error and that your theory was actually sound. Or your failed attempt might become the seed for other discoveries. So, even failed science is good science :-)

However, that is not the end of it. When the scientific community get their hand on your writings, some scientists will most certainly try to disprove your findings, while others will try to provide independent proof for them by repeating your experiments or devising their own. A new scientific theory is not really considered proven until it has been done so by several independent scientists. The best proof can sometimes be a failed attempt to disprove your theory.

This feels like a good place to mention a misunderstanding about science (actually, one of many) that is very common among religious people, namely that being unable to disprove the existence of God means that he must exist. To a scientist, or someone like me who believe in science, a claim like that is doubly mistaken. The most obvious fallacy of it is that failure to prove something does not (of course) mean that the opposite is true. The other fallacy, which is slightly more difficult to explain, is that science cannot prove negatives (for example “God does not exist”).

Lets pretend that god actually exists, then science would likely be able to prove it. But to prove scientifically that something does not exist is just not possible, be that god, fairies, the flying spaghetti monster, or any other fictional entity, or as it stands, pretty much anything at all. Or to put this argument in other words: The fact that science cannot prove that god does not exist has no implication at all. The fact that religious scientists (and legions of other religious people) have tried to prove that god exists for a very long time, and failed miserably, speak volumes in the matter.

The Big Bang – the beginning of everything

Earth and the Solar system

Evolution – where we all came from

The word “evolution” can be used to describe different processes of gradual improvement, change or progress, for example geographical evolution, or cosmic evolution. In this section I will only talk about biological evolution, which is what we evolutionists mean when we say that humans came to be through evolution.

In 1859, Charles Darwin published his book On the Origin of Species, in which he formulated his theory of evolution by natural selection. This concept was not something that he just sat down and thought up in an afternoon. By his own (and peers) account, he pretty much had it figured out as early as 1938, and so spent the better part of 20 years collecting and analyzing evidence, discussing theories with his peers, and so on, before the book was finished. So, not to shabby a theory :)

I am not a scientist, and my knowledge of biology is no better than that of a more-than-averagely interested layman. What I know about evolution and the evidence for it is just what I have picked up from different sources over the years, and by reading Charles Darwin’s book On the Origin of Species (which by the way is a great book, and quite easy to understand for something that was written in the mid 19th century, so I recommend it if you are interested in evolution). So don’t ask me to prove that the concept of biological evolution is true, because I can’t. I am satisfied in the knowledge that there are many scientists smarter than me that can.

Image of the Darwin fish symbol

The Darwin fish

The fish-like symbol that you can see here on the right is referred to as the Darwin fish, and it is commonly used to symbolize biological evolution as opposed to creationism.

If you look at the Darwin fish and remove the word Darwin and the legs from it, you get the ichtys symbol, or Jesus fish. The ichtys is very old and was used by early Christians as a secret symbol, and since the 70’s it has reappeared as a popular Christian symbol. By contrast, the Darwin fish was invented as an atheist symbol as late as 1983, as a parody on the ichtys with evolved legs and feet, and the Darwin reference inside it added.

TBD – Where to put this…

Creationism is the belief that god created the universe, the earth, and all living organisms including humans, basically exactly the way that we look right now in a single event. So (for example) a Christian is also a creationist, though it is possible for a non-fundamentalist Christian (i.e. one that does not believe that every word in the bible is to be taken literally) to actually be an evolutionist of sorts by saying something like “Well, we may have evolved from some tiny creature from a long time ago, but it was God that created that creature and set up the laws of evolution that got us here.”

To be fair, that was pretty much what Charles Darwin said when he published his theory in 1859. At least it is what he would mumble through his beard publicly to avoid more confrontation with the church than necessary. His correspondence with, and word from, his peers do however show pretty clearly, that by now he had lost his faith in God a long time ago.

In 1987, the Supreme Court of the United States of America, ruled that no law could force schools to teach creationism, since creationism is more or less a Christian thing, and the U.S. Constitution forbids the government to promote any religious belief system over another. This pissed the American Christians off since evolution was already taught in schools, so they invented something they named “intelligent design” as what they consider to be a scientific alternative to evolution. In actual fact though, intelligent design (ID) is just plain old creationism with two irrelevant differences:

ID never mentions god explicitly – they just talk about the intelligent designer (guess who, everybody).
They have phrased the Christian myth of creation in a semi-logical form, and claims that it is backed up by science. Of course, there is nothing scientific at all about it, and this is quite obvious when you get through the top layer of bullshit [excuse my choice of words but this is something that really pisses me off].
To be clear: Intelligent design is the same old Christian creationism, rephrased in a manner to sound as if it is not connected directly to Christianity. The only purpose for the existence of DI, is that the Christian creationists wants to make a new pass at getting a federal law instituted that forces all schools in the U.S.A. to teach creationism, oh, sorry, I mean “intelligent design” of course – my bad :-).

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