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← Atheists should be louder and prouder

Sean's Avatar Jump to comment 14 by Sean

@Paul

I'm going to attempt to answer at least one of your questions: "Is atheism 'exclusive' or 'elitist' by its very nature?"

Yes and no.

On the one hand, the most prominent proponents of atheism in the world are by and large highly intelligent people, often scientists. In addition, scientists, mathematicians, and philosophers have an extraordinary tendency to explain their beliefs/theories using formalized modes of rational argumentation. They do this because once a person knows these modes, they are the most efficient means of expressing an idea concisely, while simultaneously demonstrating the logic that leads to their conclusion (I'm doing it now). Unfortunately, people who have not learned these modes tend to interpret this style of communication as condescending, elitist lecturing. It also should be mentioned that many highly-intelligent, well-educated individuals are likely to value their own level of education and intelligence highly, and therefore to apply that rubric of judgement to others--much as a fitness guru, who has spent years perfecting his/her body, is likely to look down upon an overweight couch-potato, or a life-long military man may regard those who never served as undisciplined and weak. After all, if I spent 12 years at college in order to "better myself," doesn't that make me better? It's sad, but too often true.

On the other hand, atheism doesn't require you to know the math. As a species, we are nowhere near understanding the complexity of the universe in which we find ourselves. Compared to what we may know a mere hundred years from now, the world's best minds know barely more than the guy who made my salad this afternoon (who was barely out of high school, not stupid, before I get accused of elitism).

Simply stated, atheism is the belief that the universe can, and in fact does, exist according to purely natural laws, and does not require the intervention of an eternal, omnipotent being in order to patch the holes in our understanding. Just because we don't understand those laws in their entirety (and probably never will), it does not follow that a supreme being must be pulling all the strings. Furthermore, given our understanding of the size of the universe, it is roughly beyond the realm of probability that such a god, if he/she/it did exist, could give a running rut whether we believed in him/her/it (unless, of course, this god created MILLIONS of worlds with life much like ours, and is watching over ALL of us; now we're reaching, see?). Occam's Razor dictates that, all things being equal, the simplest plausible explanation is most likely correct. Based upon what little we know of the universe, God has ceased to be plausible.

Now then, as demonstrated, belief that the universe proceeds according to purely natural laws in no way requires that I possess perfect understanding of those laws. All it requires is a committment to a rational approach. In this way, atheism is not elitist at all. Certainly, it requires certain things from those who accept it, but anyone is welcome to believe that god is ultimately unnecessary.

Fri, 03 Nov 2006 17:20:00 UTC | #6943