The Lower Quote, As If You Didn't Know, Is By Richard Dawkins, Son.

Friday, March 07, 2008

If You Don't Believe in God, What Do You Believe?

I watched 30 Days the other night, that show that Morgan Spurlock made. The premise of the show, if you're not familiar, is that they take a person of one type and put them in a situation for 30 days that may either change them or their hosts. Sort of like Wife Swap, only better.

On this episode, a religious family hosted an atheist woman. The rules were that the atheist had to live with the family, she had to go to church, and she had to attend Bible study. Easy enough. The moms bonded over stuff they had in common and because they were both mature adults who had other things to chat about like kids and work and such. The Christian dad was a bit of a harder nut to crack...so to speak.

The dad had a hard time understanding atheism because he didn't understand what she believes. He repeatedly said that he didn't get it and that she must, "believe in nothing", which is a common misunderstanding, but the godless woman didn't do a particularly good job of explaining (which, to her credit, she admitted).

The dad thought, falsely, that once you take away the belief in a supreme being, all the other attachments he has (the 10 commandments, all his "morals and values") go with it. Another common way of Christian (or just religious) thinking. Of course, the morals and values don't go away and I think this should be addressed because there are a couple of issues that tag along with atheism and its inherent marketing problem.

Firstly, she really can't speak for all atheists. If you have a group of people who don't collect stamps, you can't say anything general about the group apart from their lack of stamp collecting. Their interests, values, morality and job/life choices would be extremely varied, and so it is with atheists. There's not one thing that atheists believe that could be characterized as a "doctrine" or "core" - apart from the "no god(s)" thing. This is a plus and a minus because, on the good side, there is no way to say that atheism is a "religion" because there are no sacred texts (no, the Origin of Species doesn't count), prayers, or deified leaders; however lacking any common ground, atheists are doomed to loose structure, poor organization and the "herding cats" phenomenon.

Here's a key that wasn't brought up on the show but needed to be. "Religious" values and morals are not the property of religion. "Thou shalt not kill" is not a religious statement; it's a statement that Christianity (and many other religions) assimilated as a good rule to live by, but it's a societal rule that governs the activities and effectiveness of any pack of animals. We live together just like a wide variety of other creatures, and if we let members of our society run around killing people the ability of our group to effectively work together and better ourselves would be seriously hampered. Hence, there is a man-made taboo/law against killing.

I mean, seriously, the 10 Commandments don't even mention rape - which they really should if they're the Lord's list of shit you're not supposed to do. And the first three are just stupid. You know...in my opinion.

2 Barbaric Yawps:

At 11/3/08 10:42 am, Anonymous Adam_Y said...

It's interesting isn't it.. I mean there isn't a word for someone who isn't a plumber or isn't a mathematician... yet, because you're not religious, you don't have faith, you have to have a label: aetheist.

I tell people I'm a humanist... I find it easier to explain, and for the most part true.

 
At 10/4/08 1:25 pm, Blogger Tom said...

So atheist is spelled with an ash in some places? Interesting.

Since I don't believe in God, what do I believe? What kind of ridiculous question is that anyway? I mean srsly, people. The question either a) presupposes that belief in God is necessary for belief in anything at all, or b) is directed at the possibility of viable metaphysics of morality in the absence of deific decree, or c) is utterly devoid of meaning.

In the first case the question is ludicrous. In the second case the question is easily answered by referring to the great ethical and moral philosophers. In the third case, the question is best answered by, "Next question, please."

 

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