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From:"Positive Atheism"
To: fox
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Monday, August 28, 2000 3:06 PM

When you talk of "faith" you use a different definition for the word than most theists use when they talk about, for example, "a saving faith in Christ."

This practice is called Equivocation and we recommend being aware of it when using the term faith and several other terms that have more than one meaning -- but particularly when using the term faith.

Other examples of Equivocation that we see include using the term "god" (to mean one's supreme aim in life) to describe a principle that one is "devoted" to (meaning strict adherence or sincere loyalty), and then calling that person "religious" (that is, focused, sincere, dedicated, reliable, etc.).

Aside from that, I have, in similar states of mind, likewise stretched the concept of "created in His image" to its logical absurdity, and think this may be what the authors of Genesis had in mind when they put the words, "They have become as one of us" into the mouths of the council of tribal deities. Aspects that I have focused on are creativity and personal autonomy. No wonder I didn't get along in Church!

The total physical energy contained within the universe is almost precisely zero. The universe is expanding at a fast enough rate to overcome the principle of entropy, and allow tiny pockets of order to form. One of those pockets is the planet earth, wherein exists the most highly concentrated pocket of order we've ever encountered: the human mind.

The human mind evolved a neocortex over a very brief time on the evolutionary scale, and it's not adapted to its organism the way we might like it to be. When humans began to develop the cities, it became necessary to keep the masses in line, and this was done through the trickery of religion and the collusion of state and religion.

The religion inevitably sent the message that there are forces more complex and more powerful than the human; I will agree with more powerful, but disagree with more complex. It is our complexity that is our advantage in surviving in today's world. Again, our minds are the highest concentration of complexity that we have encountered.

Unfortunately, since the state used religion to keep people in line, it had to deal with those who saw through the religion: banish them, or, better yet, kill them off. This not-so-random selection against critical inquiry (and thus in favor of credulity) has guaranteed that the human species will be very, very superstitious for a long time to come (assuming that the tendencies toward inquiry and credulity are genetically and not culturally controlled -- I know that I cannot help my inquisitiveness; I spent years of my life trying to suppress it until I finally gave up and figured out how to make a vocation of it).

If this tendency toward superstition is not genetically based, as I fear, we can expect the United States to follow Europe's example perhaps within another generation or so. When asked how long the earth has been around, a surprising number of Americans said "less than 10,000 years." When polled as to who was saying this, it was primarily the elderly and the poor: those who would tend to watch lots of television; those in the under-30 crowd were the least likely to think the Earth is young.

Frighteningly, it could take a situation similar to WWII to snap the United States in line; many Europeans I know point to WWII and the Holocast as the main explanation for Europe's current secular tendencies. But then, this also suggest that the tendency toward superstition is not as heavily based in genetics as some suspect.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine
P.O. Box 16811
Portland, OR 97292

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