Leitmotif

Reason as the Leading Motive

My Atheism

Posted by Jerry on September 20, 2006

I discovered atheism before I embraced Objectivism; perhaps, that might explain why it seemed relatively easy for me to accept Rand’s positions. My atheism probably primed me for what Objectivism was to offer.

 

For, if I were to have remained the deeply religious Christian that I was, I would have most likely rejected Rand as “evil,” wrong, misguided, and corrupting. I would probably never have given reason a chance. Moreover, I would probably never have understood the essential foundations upon which Rand basis her metaphysical views of the universe and of her atheism.

Rand’s atheism was rather passive–she wasn’t primarily concerned with defending atheism as such, because she rightly understood that the defensive stance must be adopted by the ones purporting the existence of a supernatural Being. Nevertheless, her atheism was not a lazy default belief due to an absence of evidence for God; rather, her atheism was simply a logical implication of her well thought-out system of philosophy.

 

I had no such philosophy to guide me in my early days of my “soul-searching.” Were I to come across an argument for passive atheism such as “the onus of proof rests on the believer to prove the claim that God exists,” I would most certainly not understand the metaphysical principle being stated, i.e., that existence has primacy over consciousness and that claiming something exists implies being conscious of an objective entity. Such passive atheism would do very little to convince me to abandon faith and accept atheism and reason.

 

Fundamentally, all religious believers have to take the “leap of faith.” Thus, metaphysical principles based on reason and logic are of very little use to them, and are sorely inadequate in convincing them of the truth of atheism. If it is fundamentally a matter of faith–or so they believe–then no matter what edifice of reason you present to them, it will all seem shallow, “human,” and meaningless.

 

And this is why I reject the passive approach to atheism where atheists sit as lame ducks while claim after religious claim are made about the supernatural. My approach is to tackle the claims head-on, grab the God-concept at its core and blow it up into pieces, destroy every shred of believability and credibility in any God-concept. My approach is to give a religious believer no breathing space in the plane of intellectual discourse, such that he is relegated to the mind-caves of faith from where he would have to concede that his Deity is as fanciful as believing that Batman is God. My approach is to drag the believer of the supernatural into the province of reason by demonstrating that NOTHING, absolutely NOTHING is outside the province of reason–not even his God!

 

Just as faith gives no breathing room for reason, my approach to atheism gives no breathing room for faith.

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9 Responses to “My Atheism”

  1. nosugrefneb said

    I tend to be more passive too, much like the description you’ve given of Rand above, and my acquisition (or loss?) was a slow realization as opposed to a single epiphanic moment or event. I rather prefer your method though!

  2. Ergo said

    :) Thanks Nosugrefneb!

  3. @Ergo

    Nicely put. But something about reason disturbs me.

    You mentioned

    My approach is to drag the believer of the supernatural into the province of reason by demonstrating that NOTHING, absolutely NOTHING is outside the province of reason–not even his God!

    The premise here is that province of reason is consistent and complete. Can it be proved or is it an axiom over which you build upon?

    The reason why I am sceptic is because of the following analogy:
    Consider set theory. When you are inside a set, and claim that the set is universal, how do you justify your claim? What if the set was indeed a subset of something so vast that you could not grasp?

    The principle of duality has been a problem for science for quite some time now. Gone are the days of classical physics where laws of the nature used to be deterministic because the error quotient was very small. But consider modern physics and you’ll see this uncertainty and indeterminism playing deuce wild. Why do you think that at any given instant light can behave both as particle and as a wave, even though the behaviour is termed behaviour? Is it because light is flawed or the premise on the basis of which light’s properties are being judged are flawed?

    Hey, I claim neither to be an objectivist, nor a subjectivist(if that’s what the non-objectivists are called). I am just a seeker, trying to resolve some confusions without making too many sweeping assumptions.

    I am eager to know your thoughts.

  4. Jason said

    I don’t know if you can drag a person kicking and screaming into the world of reason, though. Most times, it only makes them cling more to their preheld set of suppositions–not always, but most of the time…

    Especially as religions are often unproveable to begin with, most don’t follow a logic or reasoning per se, just a set of “doctinres” and “beliefs,” for whatever purpose or “reason” set forth in the book of choice, and that’s that. No amount of logic will actually “prove that there is no god, but it will show that it is ultimately unknowable–in which case, some will just hold up the banner of “faith,” as faith is the belief in things unseen and unheard…

    I think yo might be setting yourself up against a mostly brick wall. Not that I don’t take my potshots, not that I don’t also appeal to their logical facilities… but most of the time… it’s just… not pointless, but energy may be better spend on yourself anbd perhaps a lead by example?

    Just my two cents… :)

  5. Ergo said

    Jason, I think you missed out on my point about nothing being outside the province of reason, even God. In my “First Principles of Atheism” post, I argued this point: God cannot escape the province of reason because it is impossible even for God to go against His nature, i.e., contradict himself. for example, God cannot commit suicide and go out of existence.
    Thus, I have established the basic laws of logic (law of identity) that is also applicable to God, i.e., nothing escapes reason.
    From this point, I build the argument that, if God is under the scrutiny of reason, well, let’s use reason and logic (which, apparently, God endowed us humans with those faculties) to further investigate the God-concepts. A religious person cannot possibly deny that his God is intelligent and most rational. Thus, he has already rendered his God to the examination of the human mind.
    If a religious person denies that reason can be applicable to God, then, basically, his God is reduced to nothing but a counterpart to my own belief in Batman, my Deity.

  6. Ergo said

    Randomwalker,

    You said: “Why do you think that at any given instant light can behave both as particle and as a wave, even though the behaviour is termed behaviour? Is it because light is flawed or the premise on the basis of which light’s properties are being judged are flawed?”

    While I am no physicist, I will offer this: what epistemologically appears random or indeterminate need not translate similarly in an existential sense. Thus, if the behavior of light perplexes your current understanding of quanta and particles, it does not therefore mean that light ITSELF is strange, random, and its principles unknowable. All knowledge is contextual; to deny that would imply either than knowledge is simply not possible (which is self-refuting) or that knowledge is only valid when it is universal or omniscient (which is an impossible and baseless standard).

    Further, quantum theories that exist today must–like everything else–be taken with a grain of salt until and unless there is irrefutable evidence to support it and it remains consistent with fundamental philosophical principles, i.e., axioms. Thus, quantum theories do not deny the validity of the Law of Identity as much as they raise doubts about our epistemological identification of entities.

    And now, with regard to your analogy about Universal set and subsets. First, the analogy does not fit well with the argument for God’s existence. You ask me how can I justify the “set” that I am a part of because “What if the set was indeed a subset of something so vast that you could not grasp?”

    The problem with your question is that you assume epistemological ignorance to be one possible REASON for believing in whatever whimsical possibilities in existence. In other words, just because you think you don’t know “what’s out there,” you then accept the position that there might be creatures, aliens, maybe even GOD out there. It’s wonderful to have such an active imagination, but philosophically, those ideas are meaningless. For, in the same logic, I could argue that there is a possibility that Batman lives in a planet known as “Argumenon!” Ignorance does not provide you with the license to propose any possibilities or any random hypotheses.

    Unless one has very strong reasons to believe in a possibility, claiming that possibilities exist because one is ignorant of the fact is an invalid argument. Similarly, just because you don’t know whether God exists or not, does not by default permit the argument that God could exist. All you are permitted to say is that you are epistemologically ignorant of the facts–or that there are no facts currently that indicate God exists.

    Further, the analogy of “sets” does not fit in the discussion of God because we know for a fact that God does not and cannot exist. This is not because we are “currently ignorant” of the facts or that we are “unable to grasp” the facts. Read my various posts on Atheism for an explanation of how I know that there is no God(s).

  7. Jason said

    In my humble opinion, god has been reduced to your deity of Batman… :D

    I still think you’ll only be butting heads aginst the unreasonableness of faith (Hi, Kettle, I’m Pot. Can I call you black?) :), something in and of itself a feeling or emotion that goes against reason. In fact, a lot of emotions and feelings go against what is rational and logical, perhaps inclusive of the belief in a deity… I’m wondering I suppose, how the myriad emotions factor into the “reason and logic” portion of this world view you are expressing? If humaninty, while sometimes reaonsable, rational, and logcial, is also a part of the universe which is chaotic, destructive, and unreasonable, how does that equate to your statement, “nothing escapes reason”?

    I think I’m missing something… which is entirely possible, let me assure you! :)

    But, if in the end, you get through one stubborn mind, I will applaud you!

  8. pbenjamin said

    As someone who has only read The Fountainhead, i’m not well versed with all of Rand’s work, but I felt that if I were an atheist those were pretty reasonable positions to adopt. I do not think of her as corrupting, just too self-obsessed, and that’s something only people with a religious disposition might find “wrong” (for lack of a better word).

    Anyhow, I was wondering if you could point me to where in your posts you “tackle the claims head-on, grab the God-concept at its core and blow it up into pieces”.

  9. Ergo said

    Pbenjamin,

    Most of my posts in the “Atheism” category deal with the illogical and impossible nature of God’s existence.

    Before you begin reading any of the posts, remember that I argue from the standpoint of reason and logic because that is the *only* objective means of discourse. If you begin from the standpoint of faith, then our discussion collapses, because I can claim that I have faith in Batman’s existence and despite whatever reasoned proof you offer, I believe in faith. Faith is defined as belief even in the absence of or despite any evidence.

    Thus, if you accept that nothing open to man is outside the province of reason then you can have an intelligent discussion about God–afterall, one must assume that even God is atleast an intelligent Being if nothing else, because why bother with a non-intelligent (or even moronic) creature at all!?

    Here are some links to get you started:

    http://ergosum.wordpress.com/2005/05/12/gods-life-must-be-boring/

    Discusses the contradictory character of God-concepts like omniscience and eternal existence.

    http://ergosum.wordpress.com/2005/06/22/ontological-argument/

    Discusses and refutes Anselm’s Ontological Argument.

    http://ergosum.wordpress.com/2005/07/20/gods-limitations/

    Discusses God’s limitations as a moral and perfect being. Argues that morality and perfection is impossible to an entity defined as God.

    http://ergosum.wordpress.com/2006/05/03/strange-responses-to-gods-plan/

    Looks at the Genesis story of creation and reveals the absurdity of its underlying premise.

    http://ergosum.wordpress.com/2006/10/21/human-perfection/

    Discusses the concept of “perfection” and argues that the concept can be meaningful only when applied to Humans based on a rational, human standard, instead of an irrational, supernatural standard.

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