Home > Uncategorized > An Atheist’s Perspective: The Religious Question II “Dogma and Deity”

An Atheist’s Perspective: The Religious Question II “Dogma and Deity”

By the very definition of the term atheism has no gods. That is the literal translation of the word from the Greek. Yet for those calling atheism a religion they often point to atheists having quasi-gods for whom they hang on every word as though they were holy. Failing that, they will claim that atheists instead deify certain concepts giving them a religious like stature. This leads them to also think that there is some kind of atheist doctrine or dogma that we must follow or we would be kicked out of the atheism club. While these seem to be two different issues they are tied together (unfortunately making this one post instead of two).

I’m going to deal with the last claim first: there is no doctrine or dogma, that’s the theist’s game. The evidence for this is that there is no organization to be kicked out of, no hierarchy that calls the shots despite what the conspiracy minded theists will claim. Deny creationism and Ken Ham will not let you be a member of his church, assume that homosexuality is ok and the Phelps won’t be having you for dinner. The authority of the Pope is a prerequisite for being a Catholic, deny that Muhammed is the prophet of Allah and you are no longer a Muslim. Now the atheist who believes that there is a personal involved god cannot be an atheist but all that person does is lose the label. Nothing else. We, as a group are not unified: Penn Jillette is a libertarian of the Ron Paul sort, Christopher Hitchens supported the war in Iraq, and Bill Maher doesn’t believe in what he calls “Western medicine (aka medicine).” The only thing that unites us all is that we do not accept that the evidence to support the belief in a god exists. As stated earlier dogma cannot exist for us because there is no central authority to lay such a dogma out. 

Having settled that, the question of deification comes forward. In this I see a problem of perception. Religious conservatives in the U.S. seem to think that there is some war between those that believe in evolution and those that believe in creationism (and it’s progeny “intelligent design”). The perception is largely based on a confusion that we deify Darwin (along with some others) and in that it is a matter of faith that we want evolution taught in science classes. Both points show their ignorance rather than some astute observation on their part. 

Their perception is entirely based on their own view of things being projected on us atheists.  For them, their creation story is a matter of faith, of belief, and thus they feel that we must think the same thing. We want evolution taught in schools not because we believe in it, but because it is science. It requires nothing to believe in, it is testable, has evidence supporting it, and can make predictions. If there were some kind of evidence against it that was being ignored or purposefully misinterpreted it would not be a scientific theory. What they fail to understand is that their point of view rests on the idea that belief despite evidence is a virtue while for us it is mere foolishness. The other thing that they fail to understand is that scientific theories and laws are true whether or not anyone believes in them and especially whether or not we want to believe in them. 

It is not that we have a doctrine that accepts evolution and that compels us to spread it; it’s that the pesky thing called evidence makes us want to have it taught as the science that it is. And it is not our conspiracy that brings this war to the classrooms it is theirs. All we are asking is that science be taught in the science room while they are trying to force their religion on everyone regardless of whether we believe or not. Their claim that atheists deify Darwin is especially confusing since evolutionary Biology left Darwin’s conclusions behind. While his work started the ball rolling their have been made many advances since his work’s publication. Typically they are about as ignorant regarding atheists as they are about the science they trying to suppress. 

For example imagine a psychology class teaching that people suffering from bi-polar disorder are also shown to have abnormal brain chemistry. This is the conclusion, backed by testing, of modern psychology. Now, given that Scientology denies the legitimacy of psychology as a science, is that psychology class anti-Scientology? It’s the same issue, a faith based point of view runs counter to the factual evidence and somehow it is the factual evidence which must bend. This is foolishness. 

It’s not dogma or doctrine to want what is understood to be the truth to be taught as such. It may turn out that some piece of evidence comes up that turns evolution on its head, perhaps some creature that flourishes despite being completely unadapted to its environment exists–a cold blooded lizard that lives in the snow or something–then the theory must be re-investigated. However it ought not be because some bronze age book claims without proof that things happened differently. 

When Atheists get celebratory about Darwin or Einstein, it is not the person themselves that is being celebrated but rather their accomplishments. If Darwin’s theory is ever proved utterly wrong, he like Freud now, will be relegated to a footnote in the history of human history not cleaved to as though the salvation of humankind relies on believing something that did not happen or was completely incorrect. The only dogma or doctrine, is that what is true ought not be accepted until there is evidence for it. 

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