Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Faith and Foolishness

You know, it's antics like these that give the godless a bad name:
In a type of mock ceremony that's now been performed in at least four states, a robed "priest" used a hairdryer marked "reason" in an apparent bid to blow away the waters of baptism once and for all. Several dozen participants then fed on a "de-sacrament" (crackers with peanut butter) and received certificates assuring they had "freely renounced a previous mistake, and accepted Reason over Superstition."
This non-sense is just as comedic as those “Satanists” who so thoroughly beclown themselves by aping the rituals of the religion they ostensibly despise and reject (saying the Lord’s Prayer backwards, for Ghu’s sake?!). They do nothing more than confirm the contention that militant atheism is a faith as fervent as any theistic analogue.

I choose to live my life as a functional atheist, but if anything this only heightens my sense of responsibility to what I consider to be the only known repository of sentience: my fellow humans. Much good comes from those who find their moral anchor in a theistic metaphysics, and I would do violence to my own ethics to begrudge this…but I also recognize the crimes against reason and tolerance which can come from the interposition of ideology (theistic or otherwise) between any given human consciousness and the full empathic acknowledgment and cherishing of others’ lives and values.

Not for nothing did I replace the bumper sticker I once had which said that “My karma ran over your dogma” with one which reads that “My karma ran over my dogma.” I have a real problem with dogmatism of any color.

These people make me sleepy.


Anonymous said...

I do love my honey :)

Noocyte said...

Ma'me 'Cyte, I presume (?...).

Well, therein lies the surest evidence of the redemptive power of faith (or perhaps foolishness) that I'm likely to see today! ;-)

Mr.Hengist said...

I think the key word here is that it's a mock ceremony. As the article explains, the "ceremony" is a spoof, not meant to be taken seriously. I think it's kind of a hoot, but as a baptized atheist I doubt I could scrape together the motivation to participate. For the newly non-theistic I imagine this ceremony provides a lighthearted personal marking of their transition away from religion, symbolically undoing the baptism. Good for them, if it makes them happy.
Satanists, on the other hand, seem to really believe - or, at least, they really want to be believe.

Noocyte said...

Oh, I didn't think they were performing a serious religious ritual as such.

What irritates me about this is the way it glides right over the fact that the "newly non-theistic" are merely substituting one set of metaphysical assumptions ("There is no God) for another (there is a God). Typically, this is done with a haughty air of having dispensed with all unproved/unprovable metaphysical assumptions, and thus having earned the privilege of lampooning the deeply-held beliefs of others in doing so.

They're free to do it, and I'm free to think it mean and silly.

Mr.Hengist said...

Are these newly non-theistic - or lifelong, haughty atheists like me - really substituting one set of metaphysical assumptions for another? I'm reminded of a quote from Isaac Asimov, "I believe in evidence. I believe in observation, measurement, and reasoning, confirmed by independent observers. I'll believe anything, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it. The wilder and more ridiculous something is, however, the firmer and more solid the evidence will have to be." Nobody needs to earn the privilege of lampooning the deeply held, unprovable metaphysical assumptions of others, although tolerance is the social grease that allows people like me to live and work in their company. What you seem to be advocating is a respect for the beliefs of the theists. Would you be so respectful of an earnest believer in a flat Earth or the healing power of crystals, even in a semi-private social gathering of your like-minded friends?

Noocyte said...

Are these newly non-theistic - or lifelong, haughty atheists like me - really substituting one set of metaphysical assumptions for another?

You betcha. The definitive statement that there is no God is unfalsifiable and not amenable to evidentiary investigation (unless one is omniscient...in which case the matter is pretty much settled, i'n'it). You know the old saw about absence of evidence not equaling evidence of absence. I can no more prove the existence of God (or, more properly, fail to disprove it) than theists can the presence.

This is why I describe myself as a functional atheist/technical agnostic. It is also why I no longer get nearly as lathered up about theistic thinking as I used to (as long as no one tries to proselytize to me, or otherwise impinges on my space). Like LaPlace, I have no need of that [God] hypothesis. I find a naturalistic explanation of the universe to be quite satisfactory and beautiful enough without the presence of some Superbeing..but I retain the intellectual honesty and humility to accept that I don't know any better than any theist if there's anyOne in the corner office.

As for the Flat Earthers, I feel far more at liberty to mock them, because their claims are so handily discredited by multiple lines of evidence (unlike that God thing). As for crystals, the same may be said, albeit not quite as strongly. In both cases, though, these are the sorts of questions which can be addressed by scientific inquiry.

I, too, believe in evidence and observation, and in applying them mercilessly and unsentimentally to the inquiries we make of the universe. A big part of that stance is the acceptance that there are simply some classes of questions (loosely speaking, "Why" questions) to which they are ill-suited.

Noocyte said...

Oh, frack. Naturally, what I was trying to say there was:

"I can no more prove the absence of God..."


Mr.Hengist said...

We are of much the same mind on these matters. If pressed I would acknowledge that the existence of a god is an open question. My mild disdain for the belief systems of theists is borne of some degree of smug arrogance on my part. It's a character flaw of mine of which I'm neither proud nor notably motivated to change.

Noocyte said...