May 14 2014

Atheism Was Never An Answer

It is in our nature to be moral and work together because the society that has helped us survive took steps to be more liberal and more intellectual. It seems to me that being a moral society or indeed having a shared value system makes you survive more. And having a society that is kinder and nicer and less exploitative makes you more stable and less likely to have upheaval.

More inclusive societies are liked and so are more stable. Ones that discriminate or prey on others tend to only work if they can keep doing it. One day there will be a bigger jerk or your victims will decide to band together to end your threat. Being friendly works in our modern era.

We realised this the hard way. We had a big big war and lost lots and lots of people. And when we didn’t learn our lesson we had an even bigger one.

Atheism was never an answer, it was just meant you couldn’t take magic divinity as an appropriate answer for anything any more.

Most people don’t really want to live only according to narrowly defined material facts. Most of us try to direct our human primate evolutionary process along ethical non-material lines. We impose standards that do not come from nature. Nature is cruel yet we try not to be. We prosecute people for war crimes that are no more destructive than what happens every day in the churning cauldron of life where everything is eaten and where death is the only incubator of life. We call murder wrong although it’s the most natural thing on earth.

We’ve decided to let an imagined utopian ideal, a future Eden if you will, rule our present despite this being a spiritual non-material-universe-based choice that flies in the face of natural selection. We impose ethics that exist only in our heads upon the material universe. We are part of nature yet we have decided to be nicer than nature. There would be no war crimes trials unless our ethically evolved selves questioned the method of evolution itself. There would be no tears after the death of a friend, unless we had it in us to dream beyond what by now we should be used to.

And the above is the reason why. Because we have tried to create an ants nest. A termite mound. An artificial environment.

It is just that ours is very very big and we are much better than termites than changing our environment to suit our needs.

We impose ethics because they help society function properly. Remember? The Saudi Government seriously has people in power who think that forensic medicine may as well be witch-craft.  And that’s their little termite mound.

It is just that our termite mound creates a more egalitarian society that encourages progress and indeed “inter termite mound egalitarianism”. We succeed more and the termites of that particular mound simply wish to have societies like ours.

It isn’t due to a divine drive.

The science is debated. Words like dark matter, are tossed around. These words are metaphors for actual things that are what they are without our explanations. When we declare these things beautiful, my hunch is that they were beautiful before we were around to observe them or invented language to express opinions about what we find ourselves looking at…

Science may be debated but the thing is science works. Blind faith in the gods doesn’t. Atheism is just saying that there is no divine magic creature in charge of our world.

And science simply describes it and teaches us how we can take advantage of phenomenon by creating them to our advantage.

Atheism was never an answer, it just helped you get to an answer that isn’t “magic”.


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  1. 1
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    rule our present despite this being a spiritual non-material-universe-based choice that flies in the face of natural selection.

    Nonsense. I don’t even know what the hell this person means by this, other than “I have no idea how natural selection works, nor do I understand abstract thought.’ Being able to cooperate and organize in ridiculously complex societies has, so far, been a hell of an edge for humans. Natural selection has shaped us heavily to do exactly that, and I frankly see little reason to suppose that will stop. Are there different selective pressures now than there used to be? Sure. Does that mean there aren’t any? No.

  2. 2
    John Morales

    That only makes sense if the referent to ‘answer’ is a normative position, since it most certainly is an answer to the question “Is there a divine magic creature in charge of our world?”.

    (But even then it’s wrong)

  3. 3

    Turns out we didn’t need an easy answer. Thinking we had one held us back.

    We needed to re-ask the questions.

  4. 4

    Actually, I think that, whenever a meme shows up in practically every successful society that has ever developed, that’s a pretty good indication that it conveys something useful to the societies that have adopted it. For most of human history that consisted of countless warring cultures, religion had all kinds of benefits — it provides a shared sense of loyalty, it aids centralized authority, it privileges education, it gets soldiers willing to give up their life for a group larger than their immediate families, it codifies some kind of morality, it props up kings — these are all things you want to have, because if you don’t have them, then your neighbor that does have them will come along and conquer you and impose them on you.

    The problem with religion is that we don’t live in that world anymore. Ideas can battle civilly on the internet, instead of being carried from city-state to city-state backed by swords. And the problem with religion is that it doesn’t adapt — it can’t adapt.

    I’d go even further, actually — I think that just about every evil in society today was something that was once pro-social, but which became anti-social as society changed, while people didn’t realize it had outlived its usefulness.

  5. 5
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    I really don’t buy any of it, excepting that we can imagine better. Which has nothing to do with gods. Religion and authority simply abused aspiration by codifying it and telling us not to worry about changing the status quo now, we can worry about it when we’re dead. Or to threaten us with how bad things might be after we’re dead if we didn’t behave accordingly.

    Once I see something like

    We call murder wrong although it’s the most natural thing on earth.

    , all I can think is prove it. How is it more natural than any other natural thing? And is it really all that “natural” at all, or more a construction of the apparently all-good imagination and other more derived social behavior and thinking? I’m asking this because I see far too much over-generalization about human violence being “natural”. (And the attendant “Social Darwinism” survival-of-the-fittest meme.) Apparently all we did was kill each other until someone invented Jesus. It’s a wonder there was anyone around to hear about this oh-so clever idea.

    Seriously, if I want more thought from atheists who appreciate religion or believe in god, there’s always that self-engineering magicky stuff, and e.g., Alan Moore can at least be interesting. But I guess you want to engineer a society, the easy way is to latch onto the the expedient memes for your expedient means. Psychology andeucation is teh hard.

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