Monday, January 07, 2008

Don't overdo it

I like this comment from Alan Alda on the brilliant World Question Center.
I would have labeled myself an atheist until recently when I began to get an ugly taste from the whole Dawkins hysteria. Suddenly some sort of faction-cult solidified when atheists united. Of course, this way of going about things is inherently American - and by and large understandable considering the evangelical power factors threatening the so-called democracy over there.

Once you start referencing yourself with a capital letter (Atheists, in this case) you're broadcasting to the world your membership of a particular order. I don't view atheism as anything like that - for me it is the natural state, not a team I decide to fight for. I fear the only result from this rally is even more division among people.

I once read an elegant argument of the 'rubbishness' of agnosticism, because it basically says that there is a 50% chance of God being there (as in true/un-true). I can see the point. To a true scientist (Atheist) the chance is 0% because no decisive evidence is available. It is a nice argument but it is too categoric since 'evidence' in itself is open to discussion. And in any event, there exists no 'objective' framework to judge the state of divinity anyway. Miracles do occasionally happen, right?

So, I think Alda is spot on - Atheism (capital form) has now become politicised and is, to some, a religion in itself. It risks discounting the basic analysis of anything that does not fit a priori within scientific descriptive categories. The problem lies in automatically assigning the value 'wrong' to anything not proven true within existing limits of knowledge. Moreover, on a directly humanistic level, vigilant Atheists (again, notice the self-important capital letter) seem to regard religious and spiritual people as stupid by definition - which I think is....hmm...exaggerated, at least :)

To most people religious or spiritual feelings are not at all associated with logical thought - when science geeks try to force a connection on their subject it is really a superficial comparison that, while it shows the unscientific character of religion or spirituality, shows absolutely nothing about that subject's mental capacity in general. You are able to believe in spite of your scientific convictions. Often, Atheist science geeks have a hard time grasping this.

In any event, see this as a critical bark up my own tree, since I do not hold religious beliefs at all. I do, however, become curious about spirituality and mysticism from time to time. I also try to respect people that hold religious views - it's when they start contradicting scientific methods that I get grumpy. I have also been quasi-religious or at least interested in historical religions when I was younger, so I can relate to the chasm between religious feelings and logical thought. And since this chasm is so deeply personal, it should stay entirely in the personal domain - get that stuff out of politics, for sure. But it you think you can abolish it by pointing to science, you are the stupid one =)

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