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27 August 2017

Cogito ergo sum (atheus)

Loosely translated this means I am a pompous git for spouting Latin.

More tightly translated it means I think, therefore I am (atheist).

And so I return to a subject on which I have pontificated before (see God and Religion )

I had better make it clear at the outset that I am not implying that people who believe in God don’t think! Obviously they do but follow different thought patterns to those that lead me to an atheistic position. Since time immemorial Jewish scholars have debated over the meaning and interpretation of the scriptures, obviously involving a good deal of high-powered thinking which, in the end, lead them to maintain their beliefs.

Christians and Muslims have done the same.

I simply find myself unable to accept the existence of either the God of the Bible or the God of the Qu’ran.

Are they two different Gods, or the same God being interpreted in two different ways? What about the multiple Gods of India? Humanity has believed in and worshipped countless numbers of Gods over the millennia. I am sympathetic to the view that rather than humanity being the creation of God (whichever one you believe in), God (whichever one you believe in) has been “created” by humanity.

I subscribe to an online discussion community called Quora and some of the most frequently occurring questions relate to God and Atheism. A common question is something along these lines .. How does an Atheist prove there is no God? Since I don’t believe in anything that cannot be proven beyond doubt it follows that, in my mind, there is no God, and since you cannot prove the non-existence of something I do not feel the need to produce any such proof. More to the point, I believe it is incumbent upon those who believe in the existence of God to provide proof of His (or Its) existence.

The usual come-back to this challenge is the assertion, “I have faith in His existence”. The Encarta English Dictionary defines faith as  belief in, devotion to, or trust in somebody or something, especially without logical proof.

Another common question is along the lines of  .. "How do atheists maintain good moral behaviour without religious commandments? This is preposterous. Human beings don't need religion in order to behave properly. A civilized society that has no mutually beneficial rules of behavious is doomed to collapse. Conversely, religious groups demonstrably have no monopoly on good behaviour!

Now I submit that you are perfectly entitled to be endowed with this faith (in the existence of God), but you are not entitled to present it to others as fact. I believe that people have every right to believe in whatever God and teachings that they wish, so long as they: (1) bear no malice towards me, and (2) feel no compunction either to persuade or force me to adopt the same views.

For my part I have no wish to turn Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, etc., into atheists. Atheism is not a proselytizing condition. Other people can reach that state of mind, as I did, by questioning their own beliefs in their own time, should they wish to do that. 

As has been stated by me and other more learned thinkers (such as Richard Dawkins) the reason most of us are Christian/Muslim/Hindu/Catholic/Protestant/Shia/Sunni/Atheist is because from the first time after our birth that we were able to understand anything our parents told us who and what we were; and their parents had done the same to them .. and so on back into the mists of time. As a child we learn first from our parents, and what they tell us is true fact, for we have no way of knowing otherwise, or even thinking we ought to question what we are told. “Give me a child till he is seven, and I will show you the man” (Aristotle).

I was told it was fact that God existed, that he knew my every move, and if I was good I would go to heaven; if I was bad I would go to hell and burn forever. I had a childhood imbued with fear. I was told the Bible was Holy and I was expected to read it .. which I did in my early years without questioning a single thing I read .. talking snakes, talking donkeys, a man inside a fish, slavery, animals in ark, submission of women to husbands, virgin birth, life after death, the psychotic episode that is “Revelations” .. to name but a few oddities. I had no reason to doubt the existence of Heaven or Hell. I was expected to go to church every Sunday, and for the greater part of my life had feelings of guilt if I did not do so. 

By the time I was 70 I had re-read large parts of the Bible (and the Qu’ran) with an adult mind, and decided that much of it was patent nonsense. I could also see that religion had caused, and was still causing, much conflict and evil around the world. We are currently suffering the latest manifestations of evil in the activities of fanatical Muslims calling themselves “Islamic State”, who feel compelled to rid the earth of every human being who doesn’t submit to their particular thought process.

I have therefore turned my back on religion. I have Christian friends who accept me for what I am, and for that I am grateful. I offer them reciprocal acceptance and respect. They are good people. I have also been told by others professing to be Christians that I am misguided, mentally unstable, and destined for Hell. I'm not sure they are good people.

I recently listened to a young lady calling into LBC to explain why she had abandoned Christianity for Islam. The general gist of her reasoning was that there was too much flexibility in Christianity, not enough compulsion to understand the Bible in detail, too little firm guidance. What she wanted was a firmness of purpose in her religion, and praised the fact that so many Muslims are expected to learn the Qu’ran by heart. When the presenter suggested to her that over the millennia humanity had evolved, and that what was written thousands of years ago could not be applied rigidly to how things were today, her response was that religion had evolved .. and this is how she explained that evolution: "First there was Moses, then there was Jesus, and then there was Mohammed; and HE was the FINAL MESSENGER". In other words, all that we need to know ended in the 7th century.

What a gloriously simplistic thought process! And how lacking in proper thought.

Cogito ergo sum atheus.

©Lionel Beck
August 2017