Friday, September 26, 2014

A good argument for atheism

I will not spend a great deal of time arguing for atheism or even naturalism here, but they are certainly givens to our best understanding of the world. I found someone circling this old argument for atheism, and I have always thought it is the strongest case to be made. It is the problem of the contingency of any religious belief someone holds. Not surprising, it follows one of the main themes of this blog which is trying to understand how our own beliefs and attitudes arise in our selves. The argument then asks whether we should continue to believe facts or continue to reproduce certain habits given where they come from.

I do not know if there is a better way to put this, but there is a traceability problem. I can examine any proposition or especially any proposition that I believe in, trace it to its roots, generally speaking, and I can find an answer that makes intuitive sense. If I believe the New York Yankees (hypothetically speaking) are the greatest team ever, I can trace that to my childhood, location, and parents. Maybe, in the end, I accept that it is less of a proposition and more just my tribal loyalties, and stop worrying about my cheering for the Yankees.

For other propositions of a more general nature that traceability becomes more salient, such as the sun is the center of the solar system. We can trace that to scientific agreement of coherence, reproducible experiment (etc.). We may have the historical contingency problem that any particular scientific belief has, but, for us good naturalists, we have to shrug off that kind of contingency, mark it and move on. When it comes to a proposition such as “God blesses the cracker and awards me for taking in it,” the traceability of the problem simply dead-ends in some brute historic fact. This is of a contingent factor that seems empty to most reflective minds, simple statement by some priest, tribe, or council that simply gives us a belief about the world. As we trace one of our particular beliefs to this kind of belief-creation, I think most people (say atheists) are troubled by such odd creation of that belief.

For a simpler example, it would be as if a 15yo has had someone question her belief that “black holes are made of toads,” a proposition that she believed because she was born into strange parents in a very strange cult. As outsiders tell her that her belief in this piece of information is contingent on the accident of her cult years ago, the traceability goes back to an insane cult leader who simply stated it out of the blue, the traceability arrives at a brute statement that seems problematic. As she learns some other facts of the world according to physics, understands how they arrive at their answers and why in general their origination seems more respectful than the idea that a cult leader said it 20 years ago or that it had simply been traditional beliefs for 2000 years, facts that trace themselves to a more reflective and empirical nature will come to enjoy greater respect in her mind, because she is a budding common-senser.

Lastly, you have conglomerate problems. Religion gives all sorts of propositions, beliefs, and prescriptions whose contingency seems problematic, seems localized, and when we trace them they end up in these empty brute fact statements by some priest. The majority of religious propositions that have ever been espoused are regarded as nonsensical to any individual, and thus as we trace various beliefs to their origins we find some tribe or priest simply stating it or misinterpreting some phenomena. So, not only does one's own specific religious proposition dead-end into an empty brute statement or creation by a given people, but those of all religious propositions do, most of which we all readily agree are wrong. It becomes difficult to maintain the justification of one's own brute creation of one's own proposition, especially when they seem a little odd, especially when I turn to faith to justify my answer for such a belief.

So, there goes that.    

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