Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Atheism 101: Knowledge and Belief

What is Belief?
"Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." -Carl Sagan

Belief is, simply put, what the mind accepts as truth. If I said to you, "I had cereal for breakfast today", you'd probably be inclined to believe me. That statement wouldn't be hard to accept as true.

However, if I were to say, "My cereal arranged itself so that it spelled out my full name!", then you'd have some trouble taking that as truth. At least, you should.
I'd have to produce some extraordinary evidence to support my extraordinary claim.

It is for this reason that most atheists tend not to believe in supernatural claims of any kind.

Agnosticism - The Default Position
Not taking extraordinary claims without sufficient, serious evidence is the natural, default approach. Despite its many flaws, the court system we have established here in America operates on this very same premise: innocent until proven guilty. Why? Because it has shown itself to be the best approach.

Anyone can make claims about anything, but making the claim alone doesn't make it true. If I told you that I have an invisible pink unicorn at my house, would you believe me? Shouldn't I have to produce some sort of reason for why I could say such things?

Of course, you can't *see* the unicorn -- she's invisible. In fact, you can't touch her, smell her, taste, feel, or conduct any sort of measurement in order to detect her. But she's there! And no, I can't see her. I can't tell you how I know she's there, but I KNOW SHE'S THERE.

Again, there's no reason for any rational mind to place any confidence in the validity of this. The positive claim that something has happened begs for positive evidence. Maybe it really IS true, but we've got to back that up somehow. Until we have a reason, we take the default approach and choose not to believe.

But this very concept causes rifts in many people's minds, though it shouldn't. Atheism is the default position for every child born. They have to be taught of a God. Yes, I said it. Every child is born an atheist. If this statement strikes you the wrong way, then congratulations, you have been the victim of a campaign of misinformation and deliberate attempts to mislead and corrupt the term. You can blame religious leaders for this brainwashing. Hopefully throughout this blog, I will be able to help you separate the term 'atheist' from moral values and help you understand the true meaning of the term. "Atheist" does not equal "evil".

1 comment:

FortuneCat said...

Just found your blog, *really* enjoying it. Just wanted to highlight something in your analogy about the pink unicorn. You said you couldn't say how you knew the animal was there. However most religious people seem to claim their holy book of choice is all the proof they need.

As I know a lot of muslims, they often claim Islam is above Christianity for two major reasons: it only has one god (not the confusing triangle of father, son and holy spirit), and that their holy book can be traced back to its original source. It has not been lost in translation or other such claims. It traces back to the Prophet, therefore it is the word of God.

Even if this were true, that an accurate family tree of Korans can be traced back to an original somewhere (which I find hard to believe), they very conveniently leave out the *complete* lack of evidence that a supernatural being had the book be written. I find this major flaw in their reasoning so infuriating! >.<

So another take on the analogy might be that a pink unicorn told you to write a book which confirmed its existence. And that everyone should take your word for it.