My later posts will surely avail you with wisdom and insight into a whole host of topics, ranging from business to world events, personal finance to personal relationships, politics to entertainment, but the focus of this blog shall be on religion, at least for the foreseeable future.
Why religion? Well, this seems like a suitable topic for my first blog (is each post an individual blog or is the blog the collection of posts?) so I'll go ahead with it.
I was raised in a household that was mostly secular. My mother is an atheist and my father a (somewhat lapsed but still believing) Roman Catholic. As a result, my parents approached the subject of religion with my brother and I in the same way that the military (up until recently) approached the subject of homosexuality in soldiers--don't ask, don't tell. We were not to ask what to believe, they were not to tell us what to believe. "When you are old enough, Ben," I was told, "you can figure out for yourself if you want to believe in God or not."
I owe my parents a great debt for this almost unprecedented level of respect for my intellectual integrity. Many parents, regardless of their religious beliefs or lack thereof, will teach their children at a young age to think like they do. In my town, it is not uncommon to see children as young as four-years-old traipsing dutifully behind their parents into churches on Sunday mornings! How perverse is that? A four-year-old has no way of assessing the validity of what a preacher claims. She has no way of identifying fallacies in rhetoric. She will believe anything she is told by an adult authority figure, as long as it is said with enough conviction. And beliefs established at such a young age have a tendency to become properly basic as the child grows into an adult--leaving the adult with little chance of ever shaking them.
But the criticism of religious indoctrination as child abuse is another matter, for another post (or blog--I'll have to look into this terminology.) My point is, I was not indoctrinated--neither as an atheist nor as a Christian. This is not to say I did not form opinions on religion, perhaps before being well-informed on the subject; I did as early as the 7th grade. These opinions were based not on evidence and argument, though, and I would not accept them as legitimate criticisms of religion today. However, an immature mind works differently from a mature mind and thus my early reasons for disbelief were different from my current reasons. In those days, I simply noticed that the worst people I knew--the most intolerant, the most arrogant, the most narrow-minded, the most conceited, the most xenophobic--were also the most religious. It was clear to me that religion made people behave worse and I wanted no part in it.
Fair enough, I suppose, for a thirteen-year-old (I think you're thirteen in seventh grade, but I'm not sure. Close enough, anyway.) However, as I got older, this reasoning wasn't enough for me. I realized my reasons for disbelief were simply ad hominem--not legitimate grounds for dismissing a claim. I decided a deeper investigation was needed and, following the lead of my good friend, Marco Otero, I sat down and began reading the Holy Bible.
It took me months, and there is still much I have not read and even more I have not understood, but one thing appeared clear to me after reading it. This was not divine revelation. There was no useful information in it. No unknowable facts about the universe. No profound moral teachings. Nothing that could not have been written by Bronze Age peasants. I will go on to justify these claims in later posts, but I will leave them as simple assertions here, since I risk exhausting your patience should I go into further detail.
I also analyzed the arguments made by Christian apologists, to see how convincing they were. Some, like Lewis' Trilemma or the Ontological Argument, were openly laughable and unconvincing. Others, like the Argument from Fine-Tuning, seemed superficially plausible, but fell apart on further scrutiny. Ultimately, every argument I heard relied at some point upon a logical fallacy, a claim that was demonstrably false, a claim that was unfalsifiable, or was an argument that could be used to support the truth of a falsehood. (Again, I will go on to justify these statements in later posts.)
So the conclusion I came to was as follows: No evidence or logical argument has been presented to me to support the existence of a god or gods. However, the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence therefore I cannot claim knowledge or certainty of the nonexistence of a god; I cannot call myself a gnostic atheist. But without any positive reason to believe that a god exists, I cannot assume or believe or even entertain the possibility that one does exist--therefore I cannot call myself a gnostic theist or an agnostic theist. The only logical position for me to hold is that of an agnostic atheist.
Once I had assumed this position, I realized that, given the information available to me, there was no way anyone else could objectively assess that information and come to any different conclusion. I realized that anyone who does have religious belief must be in one of the following circumstances:
- They have access to less information than me, or they have inaccurate information.
- They are unaware of the proper ways in which to analyze arguments and therefore are persuaded by fallacious reasoning.
- They have access to more information than me--there are persuasive arguments for the existence of a god, but I have simply not been exposed to them yet.
Here is where I (finally) come to my point: You will notice, that if any one of these three options is true, I have a burden of encouraging dialogue amongst my peers on the topic of religion.
If #1 is true, then I must do my best to stimulate conversations in which I can correct the inaccurate information which my believing brothers and sisters hold to be true as well as impart the new information to them.
If #2 is true, then I must do my best to stimulate conversations in which I illicit the fallacious arguments from my faithful friends and point out to them where their logic is faulted.
If #3 is true, then I must do my best to stimulate conversations in which I illicit the persuasive arguments from my (and here is where I stretch to continue my alliteration motif) gnostic neighbors, because if a god does exist and does demand my fealty, then I surely would like to know about it!
So, since brevity is the sole of wit, I shall try to keep the conclusion to this (unintentionally) long-winded inaugural post rather brief: I have demonstrated here why it is necessary for me to stir conversation about religion. I would like to hear absolutely no criticisms of my criticisms of faith on the basis that criticisms of faith should not be voiced; it is critical that they are. If you would like to criticize my criticisms, please have a comprehensive list of your criticisms of my criticism so that I may critique your criticisms of my criticism of faith. :)
Thank you for your time in reading this blog--hopefully you will return in the future!