mardi 7 février 2012

A History of (One Man's) Atheism

"Back when I was still struggling with the idea of faith, I was haunted by visions of trying to explain it to a child. How could I explain something which I didn't fully understand... something that didn't make any sense to me? That apprehension went away, and was replaced with tremendous excitement about having the opportunity to teach and learn with my future children. Some of my friends have expressed hesitation about wanting to become parents. I've put it to them this way: I will get to take everything I've learned about the universe, and teach it to them in the way that I wish I'd been taught. I can convey to them the true beauty of the universe. I can teach them all the moral lessons I've learned. And I will get to experience childhood in a way that no one can experience when they're going through it themselves. I will get to hear them ask the most difficult, unprecedented, innocent questions - the questions that only a child would have the nerve to ask - and I get to discover the answers with them. That will be a profound experience. And if religion were still in my life, that experience would have been cheapened and degraded by me providing "answers" to my children's questions about the universe which weren't the truth... but merely some irrational tradition I was blindly passing on."

"In the words of the late Christopher Hitchens: 'That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.'"

"It was physics that got me from deism to atheism. I was still taunted by the Cosmological Argument for God (the so-called "first cause" argument). A universe couldn't just happen, could it? Surely the big bang needed a spark... some outside source of energy. I read up on physics and cosmology. As it turns out, the universe is energetically neutral. No outside source of energy is needed, because net-net, there is none in the universe. We, and everything we can observe in the universe, are nothing more than specks of energetic pollution. We are one side of the equation. But the equation balances. Moreover, quantum fluctuations create "something" from "nothing" all the time. The most nothing nothingness we can observe is actually a boiling caldron of particles spontaneously popping in and out of existence. No god needed. That was the last straw for me. I ceased believing in any sort of hands-off creator god. The universe, for the first time in my life, made sense to me. It was one of the happiest moments of my life."

"I stumbled upon a website. It asked a simple question, but one that delivered a death blow to the idea of a hands-on god who can heal us and answer our prayers.

"Why Won't God Heal Amputees?"

Certainly an all-powerful god could heal amputees. And in terms of benefit to the person, it falls between alleviating eczema and curing cancer. So it's not outside of those bounds. The only things notable about limb regeneration are that (a) it doesn't happen to humans naturally, and (b) the results, if it were to happen, would be undeniable. But it doesn't happen. Nor does anything else that satisfies those two conditions. I was left with no alternative but to conclude that miracles do not occur."

--from a fascinating account of one man's "conversion" to atheism:

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