Sunday, February 01, 2015

With Eyes Wide Open: Introduction

Thanks to the advice of David Silverman, I have decided to post my autobiography as an online text rather than try to pursue professional publication for it. I am not yet well enough known to make it very compelling reading to a large audience.

However, I think that I've got some points to make and issues to discuss. That's why I'm posting it here.

Over the next several weeks, I'll post chapters as I edit them. 

I hope you'll find what I've written here interesting.


Let's cut to the chase: I'm an atheist. That word carries a lot of baggage with it largely because most people don't really understand what it means. The root of that word is theist, a person who professes a belief in a god, gods or other supernatural conscious being. Add the prefix “a” and it means a person who doesn't profess such a belief.

It's as simple as that. But some people, who don't really understand what it is to be an atheist, have ascribed all manner of meanings and attributes to atheism. So here are some things I need to clear up before we go too far into the topic.

I don't say categorically that there is no god. I simply say that no credible, independently verifiable evidence exists to demonstrate the existence of a god. As Delos McKown said, “The invisible and the non-existent look very much alike.” But this goes beyond the invisible. Electrons are, to the human eye, invisible. But they are detectable by using various instruments. No means has been made to objectively detect the existence of any god or gods.

Before delving too deeply into what I am, let's take a look at the many things I am not. I'm not a devil worshiper. If there's something I find less likely than the existence of a god it's the existence of any devils, imps, demons, succubae or other creatures whose whole reason for being is to cause people to misbehave. From what I've seen of humans, they can manage this quite nicely without any assistance.

I'm not an atheist so I can be free to sin without guilt. First, I don't believe in the concept of sin. There is right and there is wrong. But I'll delve into this more later.

I'm not angry with any god. The followers of gods are a different story. I've seen them conduct themselves in the most reprehensible of ways all in the name of their gods. Again, I'll examine this more closely later.

This isn't about rebelling against my parents and it never has been. My mother has been dead nearly 20 years and if I'd wanted to rebel against her when she was alive, I'd have become a rabidly evangelical Christian minister preaching temperance. I'm not sure my father cares one way or another about my belief system as long as I treat him decently and call him from time to time to make sure he's doing OK. Religion is a topic we simply don't bring up.

I'm not an expert on religion or theology. I won't pretend that I am. I've got a bit more background than most people simply because I've investigated a bit more thoroughly than most people. For me, it's not enough to believe; I have to know.

My worldview is very simple: numerous groups and societies throughout human history have claimed the existence of a god or gods. All of them claim to be true yet there is no evidence of these beings that can be systematically and objectively examined to reveal the truth of these claims. The late Carl Sagan used to advise us “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” The claim that any kind of god exists is the most extraordinary that can be made yet the evidence is, at best, mundane. However, to be completely fair, absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence. So with these two ideas put together, I can't bring myself to believe in any kind of god until someone brings forth the kind of extraordinary evidence that would prove that the claims are true. And that evidence is going to have to be of such magnitude that there will be no denying it. No book produced on a human printing press, no images of holy figures appearing on sandwiches and no remission of cancer will be adequate.

What follows is a personal journey. It explores how I came to atheism, my own history with religions and my observations about the world and the nature of belief. I've written this largely for myself but if anyone wants to come along on the journey, you're welcome as long as you behave yourself. I've tried to anticipate some of your questions, as you'll see later.


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