No Room For Blind Faith
Ron Friend

Graphic Rule

From: "Positive Atheism" <
To: "Ron Friend"
Subject: Re: New Membership
Date: Sunday, August 06, 2000 1:27 PM

We accept the "weak" definition for the word atheism. This definition says, "I lack a god belief." The "strong" definition says, "No gods exist." The "weak" definition implies at least two things that relate to what you've said here.

There are many other reasons for accepting the "weak" definition for atheism which are summarized in great detail in George H. Smith's "Defining Atheism."

As an atheist of the Positive Atheism variety, I accept that each believer has (or thinks he or she has) valid reasons for believing. I don't respect them because their group is bigger than mine, I respect them because I've been there and I know how fragile the human mind can be, and how complex and persistent the temptation to believe can get.

The Raelian Religion is an atheistic religion which teaches non-theistic, non-supernatural creationism. They claim that extraterrestrials were not allowed to experiment with DNA on their home planet so they found this one. Naturalistic evolution is much easier for me to accept than either this model or even theistically guided evolution. In any creationist scenario, we must face the question of who created the creator? In panentheistic terms, how did the order come to produce order? Contrary to popular belief, the natural sciences have explained these problems so simply that I really have no need to wonder if creationists have a point. I still do, though, because (I think) most of us cannot help it. This is why I respect anyone's decision to be religious.

You may also be interested in my dialogue with a naturalistic pantheist, who seems to be saying that there are no gods and no Anthropic Principle, and everything came about naturalistically. His only quirk (which, to me, was no quirk at all) was that he stood in such awe of nature that he was tempted to call it "god." We spent much of our time trying to hammer out whether his is a third alternative to a theism-atheism dichotomy. We agreed that, for the purposes of the "weak" definition for the word atheism, his view is a form of theism simply because he says that he believes in a "god" -- which he calls the universe. With the "weak" definition, remember, one either has a god belief or one does not; thus, a theism-atheism dichotomy is implied. This theist, though, seems to reject the notion of a "watchdog" or even an Anthropic Principle overseeing the evolutionary processes.

In a parallel conversation that occurred simultaneously with this one, we discuss possible differences between the terms paranormal and supernatural.

Here are two more world views for you to chew on -- two more exceptions to the rule, if you will.

I also realize that we are all in a constant state of learning (unless one has become a fundamentalist of some sort). Thus, I have said things even on this forum -- even as recently as a few months ago -- that have been superceded by new knowledge. It is this willingness to submit to new knowledge that marks one who respects scientific method. With Liberal Scientific Method, one submits his or her views to the scrutiny of others. This is akin to what I am doing here: I am submitting my ideas to readers, and they are submitting their ideas to myself and to other readers.

This is exclusivistic thinking even if it is true (and it very well may be true).

I have tempered the exclusivistic elements of my position by choosing to realize that all who believe have their reasons for believing. I refuse to see this as a "handicap" or any such thing, because I wish to preserve that dignity which is crucial to getting along.

The truth is, we are all "handicapped" in that we are all very fallible. This is no handicap at all (since we all share the same plight) unless one is seeing things from an idealistic perspective, not unlike that held by those Christians who hold Jesus up as (among other things) a perfect specimen of humanity, one to be emulated by the rest of us. To me, I am a perfect specimen of the human race in that I am perfectly human. This is what I think of the concept of perfection, and I think your use of the word handicapped here may betray this sense of idealism.

Another thing to remember is that the human brain is not in any sense bolted down securely. The growth of the neocortex, on an evolutionary scale, resembled the growth of a tumor. It is much larger than those of other primates, and is virtually nonexistent in other species. It's connection to the rest of the brain is superficial at best. For this reason also, I don't fault anyone for thinking the way they do, and would hope that others wouldn't fault me for thinking the way I do.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

Graphic Rule

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