Monday, February 18, 2013

The inauthenticity of atheism

I will admit that this post is partly inspired by my atheist friends on Facebook. I hate to admit that I am affected by Facebook, but sometimes it just gets to you, ya know? Anyway, it's not so much the belief in Atheism, (I know belief is a weird choice of words, but technically you have to believe there is not a higher power. There's no factual evidence for God not existing either.) but the way that it's argued. Even if I didn't believe in God, I would not want to associate myself with the stereotypical atheist. I don't think this is an unfair judgment, as most of them seem to revel in the persona that is associated with this belief. Essentially, I'm referring to the stodgy, academic type, the oh so witty and droll cosmopolitan, who cannot believe that you can believe in some "flying spaghetti monster" based on some archaic mythos fed to you by your parents, or [insert whatever authority figure here]. Yes, I'm picturing Christopher Hitchens, too. So what?

Now that I've put my own personal bias out there, I'll show you why I think atheists are inauthentic. The first argument put forth by the atheist is usually that there is no factual evidence that God (or any supernatural being) exists. I have to assume that they mean "scientific" evidence. For me there is evidence of God in the world all around us. I guess it depends on whose frame of reference you want to go by. So, what do we mean by a fact? Obviously, an atheist can't believe in there being one Truth, so they must only believe in truth, with a lower case 't'. Truth that is not absolute, but can be changed. So, technically, all the facts in the world can never lead one to certainty on any particular topic. This is particularly true with theories based on observable phenomena, or a posteriori truths. So here is my big counterexample.

Most believers, theists if you will, relate to God primarily in an emotional and not analytic way. That isn't to say that logic and reasoning aren't commonly employed in the search to understand God's will, but it's usually secondary. The relationship to God is not one of sensing, but feeling. My central tenet here is that God is to be felt, not seen, or heard, or touched, at least not through our sensory organs. In order to explain this, I turn to Plato's Symposium. In it, Socrates speaks of love as something that can only be understood by the initiated. One can never explain what it means to be in love to someone who has never experienced it. Picture how one would have to explain it to a child, "One's heart rate quickens, he gets 'butterflies in his stomach', it makes him happy on a whole different level than regular happy..."  I used to use this in my intro to philosophy classes because it sets up all kinds of good discussion on the difference between knowledge and wisdom, but I digress. You can't describe the feeling of being in communion with God to someone who doesn't feel that way. If you think this is a cop out, let's look at the love example a little deeper. Science tells us that love is an electro-chemical reaction in the body which produces hormones and endorphins which make human beings feel good (uncannily similar to eating chocolate). It's there to make us procreate and pass on our genetic material. Despite knowing this, atheists and scientists (not those scientists who actually do science, but those who treat science like a religion) still pursue relationships, get married, make babies, love said babies... Obviously, this is a completely inauthentic state of being. Even though they are confronted with the truth that what they feel for the object of their affection is only a trick played on them to pass on their genes, they still choose to "love" their family members. How can one who demands sincerity from the spiritual believer, live a life in complete denial? My only explanation is that these demands are made with tongue planted firmly in cheek! Even if the atheist were to argue back that humans experience things on a higher level than animals and that there is a certain beauty in the affection we feel for other humans, they are still drifting perilously close to the "belief without substantial observable facts" that they so readily accuse the theist of holding.

So there's my small diatribe on the inauthentic atheist. I'll see you at mass on Sunday. I'll be reading at the 9:30 and 11:30, God willing.