Bullies, Bollocks and Divine Infanticide

This post was actually a response to a discussion raised on the IF Project Facebook page. The IF Project is an endeavour by journalist Jane Lee to,  in a 100 day timeframe, “launch a new magazine to shed light on the SOCIAL, ENVIRONMENTAL and HUMANITARIAN challenges of the world.”

I suggest you check out and contribute to the […]

Me vs Atheism

Before I jump into this, a few quick points, and a disclaimer or two.

(Edit) 0: The title of this post is (deliberately, I’ll admit) misleading. I do not, by any stretch of the imagination ‘oppose’ atheism – but rather the attitude that (in my experience) is held by many who claim that (or any other) view, which I see as disruptive to inclusive, unbiased and reasonable debate.

1: My original point (which got a little lost in the ruckus this post is actually about) was  very simple. Following an interesting episode of the SBS program Insight addressing religious education – scrap that – theological indoctrination in the public school system, and a number of trialled, suggested and in one case rejected alternatives, I concluded the following.

If we are going to include Religious Education in the public school system, for God’s sake (pun fully intended – and it is a pun, just so you’re clear on that) can we actually educate our kids about, you know – religion? Not the Christian or Catholic or Hindu or Islamic faith, but RELIGION. After all –

..The history of religion is the history of human endeavour to understand a universe greater than ourselves. Regardless of your personal beliefs, religion has been pivotal in global politics, law, science and cultural change (or lack of) so why wouldn’t we want our kids to learn about the significance and impact of (all) religion on our societies?

Yeah, quoted myself. So ner.

2: If I’m wrong here, let me know. Not in the “No, you infidel – God is real!” or “There is no god you ignorant twit” sense, but if I am at all mistaken in my observations – I’m more than happy to stand corrected.

3: This is one of those really fun topics that you either don’t give a crap about (in which case I suggest you leave now – this get’s a little long and ranty) or if you do, you feel quite strongly about (usually in one particular direction). I encourage and welcome comments – you may have noticed there aren’t many on the site, so it’d be a novelty, if nothing else – but typically these kinds of discussions degenerate into a perfect example of one of the bigger issues I see with this kind of thing (there’s a post in that I’m sure) and I’d much prefer a reasoned debate than an outright flame war. (Most of the time)

Bottom line though, is that (frustrating as it may sometimes be) ignorance can stand corrected – intolerance, more rarely so. Needless to say, intolerance trumps ignorance on Collin’s ‘wanker-meter’, so if you really feel the need to be an arse – do it elswhere.

Cool, now I’ve quoted myself and referred to myself in the third person. How conceited is that!

4: I’m not an expert on anything that I’ll (eventually, I swear) be looking at in this post. My opinions on these topics are essentially just that – opinion, based on casual observation for the most part, and backed by a preoccupation with finding out the ‘why’ of things.

5: Despite the apparent assumptions of some commentors on the ramblings that kicked this off, I’m not a ‘believer’ when it comes to the ‘One God’.. thing. If you were reading around April Fools day it should be pretty clear I’m an equal opportunity fun pokerer. But then, I’m not a believer in the ‘No god’ thing either.

What? Huh? What on earth can this mean?!

It’s pretty simple. Three words, in fact. If you think you can manage, you can say them with me. Ready?

I don’t know.

And I’m OK with that. Because when it comes to contending views on the ‘truthiness’ of a given thing, to ’round out’ to the most likely, or most evidenced version is essentially a cop out. A by product of our biological compulsion to rationalize perhaps. Or maybe just a big flip of the bird to the party unable to prove their claim. (Either way, ‘liklihoodiness’ sounds nowhere near as good as ‘truthiness’)

And while most of the ‘scientifically minded’ folk are happy with the way the ‘burden of proof‘ works, I am not – it’s never really made sense to me. Lack of proof of the existence of a thing (in this case, a deity) does not, in any way, validate the counter-argument attesting to that thing’s non-existence. Something either exists, or it does not. It is either true, or it is not. The burden of proof shouldn’t fall on either party – determining the actual truth should be the goal of both. And if that truth cannot be determined, the only remaining option to to admit ignorance.

In the simplest possible way I can think to put it:

x = their view
y = your view
n = the ‘truth’ of the matter

n will never be either x or y – it will always be n.

x or y might accurately describe n, however if x or y cannot be infallibly found to do so there is no basis on which to claim that either x or y has anything to do with n at all. For all you know, a better description would be q. Or 784. Or Batman.

After you die-hard philosophers out there get over your apoplexy, I’ll ask you to consider this:

Should the answer to any question posed regarding the nature of a thing be biased toward the conventionalism, and the likeliness of one presented answer according to common opinion and the ideology of the time?

Once you’ve answered that (I’m sure it won’t take long) perhaps reflect on what Socrates might have thought.

I can’t tell you if god exists, but I can tell you something of what I do believe – that throughout our history, human beings seem compelled to envision an entity or power greater than themselves to whom (when anthropomorphized) they will submit their will, and while our nature leans toward an abuse of the power such compelling beliefs hold over our fellow mortals, these same beliefs have spawned such institutionalised concepts as law, morality, consequence and in a (granted, very) broad sense, are in fact a form of scientific endeavour.

While such beliefs may be inconsequential in the view of some, I myself cannot dismiss them as easily, given the impact they’ve had (and still have) on our culture, and by virtue of my own (irritating, I’m sure) tendency to leave every matter ‘open to discussion’ unless completely, unequivocally resolved.

OK, enough of the preamble. On with the show.

Continue reading Me vs Atheism