Why I am a naturalist


Since Bertrand Russell wrote his why am not a Christian article and Sam Harris’ Letter to a Christian nation and many other such tracts by numerous people, I don’t think I have to write such a polemic against Christianity. Those who may not be aware, I was brought up Catholic. I attended mass regularly and on occasion went for confession until some point when it occurred to me these were just a sham and stopped doing them.

This post is a response to why am not a naturalist. Don’t ask me where I find these people 😀

I am a naturalist not because I want freedom from moral accountability to god. I don’t know how this would be possible if the god is omnipotent. How would one defeat his will? If I must give an account, it is to those am capable of harming. Many believers have been stopped in their tracks of causing harm not by the fear of god but the fear of jail or the reproach of their fellow mortals.

For our purposes,

Philosophical naturalism is the doctrine that the observable world is all there is.

Methodological naturalism is the label for the required assumption of philosophical naturalism when working with the scientific method.

One realizes the scope of naturalism is quite wide. It is not limited to gods alone. A critique of naturalism cannot then limit itself to deities alone. To start a critique of naturalism and end up critiquing atheism only is to me a lack of understanding of the subject.

The OP’s first argument is to claim atheism is illogical. He starts by rephrasing Paley’s watchmaker argument as a proof for god. I will say even if we were to grant a creator for the universe, there is no contradiction is thinking of many creators of the different parts. In fact the comparison to man-made things weakens the design argument. A car is designed by many people and improved over time. It is possible, to infer from the car argument, that the present universe is a result of many failures and improvements by different designers with differing amount of knowledge. I don’t know whether the universe had a beginning or always was and I would love to know. The universe is not evidence for a god. The much we can deduce from its existence is that it is, nothing more.

To me, evil is anything inimical to my well-being. It need not be justified or rationalized. I believe the universe is indifferent to my joy or suffering. The OP does not seem to understand the old Epicurean formulation of the problem of evil. As I said in my earlier post, the argument does not say that evil is an argument against god, rather a given conception of god. The claim that the universe has an overlord who is loving, powerful and all-knowing is inconsistent with evil. It leaves it open for a god who isn’t loving, powerful or all-knowing to exist.

Hope is a useless word. We would not need it. It exists in our vocabulary because we have so many unmet desires. To tell a person who is terminally ill that they will be better in the future is to sell them a balm they don’t need. What reason has the believer to expect that their god would fare better in another world when it couldn’t make things right here? What right have you to tell a person who has seen all his family killed that there will be justice in a future world. I want justice where it matters to us. If there has to be justice, let it exist where it counts and that is here. Should there be a netherworld, let us meet it as it comes but please let us solve the problems of this earth here. I am a naturalist because I believe that we have the capacity to make the world a just and peaceful place for all of us if only we would be reasonable.

I believe no god has dictated our morals. In fact, a brief survey of our history shows that man has been better behaved than his god. That the more a man is godless, the more he is likely to be just in his dealings with his fellow man and beast. The believer in the Christian conception of god must be really blind or ignorant to not see the evil nature of his god. That humanity has a sense of good and evil is not proof of god but of our shared humanity. In my neighbour I see one like me. It is this shared humanity that gives morals the appearance of objectivity.

Science, construed broadly, is our only way of gaining knowledge. Revelation is not universal. Mystical experience is not universal. There is no way of testing them. It would be unjust for a person who has received a revelation to expect the rest of us to believe it on his word. All we can say is that to her, the revelation is true, but not the rest of us. I hope the OP will tell us what method he/she has in mind that we can apply to gain knowledge or arrive at truth. We must all reasonable people agree that theology is a subject without an object. It is best described as the study of nothing. If my reliance on science is a critique against naturalism, so be it, but am not about to believe that revelations or claims of revelations by some deranged man in the desert holds true for everyone.

I accept the charge of nihilism. I will qualify my nihilism. In my view, and you are open to disagree, I see no cosmic meaning for our being here. We will live, we will die and the universe will continue to do its thing. All life is vanity. All work is vanity. I agree with the words of the writer of Ecclesiastes about life. All our striving comes to naught at the end of it. Some of us are remembered, some, in fact the majority, not so. For those things we give meaning, we do so to make life worthwhile. In all honesty, the question to what end, for me, points to the vanity of our existence.

I am an honest fellow, I lie sometimes. I fear the reproach of my fellows. I do good to my fellow-man not because a cosmic overlord counts the times I do good, no, because it is the only way I know how to live with others. One may ask why, if I accept nihilism have I not popped my head out. That there is  no cosmic significance does not rule out personal significance plus there is a book I haven’t finished reading :D. The universe does not become less beautiful because there are no fairies. It is full of wonder and mystery. Every time I wake up from my sleep, it is like a resurrection. I was dead for a while and I have come to life. I am amazed at why I must die every day. I desire a just world. I would like to see the end of hostilities between nations. I wish for a day when no child will die of hunger because they are too poor. I long for a world without the homeless. Most of all I long for a world where the right to believe or not believe is granted to all. My naturalism and humanism tells me we got only us to make these dreams come true.

This, my friends, is why am a naturalist. I may add here that god[s] have not been defined in a way that we can have a conversation about them. My god position is igtheism.

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About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

46 thoughts on “Why I am a naturalist

  1. Excellent, well written post. It was a pleasure to read this.

    Like

  2. ladysighs says:

    Won’t ask you where you found him. lol But I went there anyway.
    He said when he was growing up, he never considered becoming an atheist. As if we all sat around and tried to decide if we wanted to become an atheist or not.
    I think he may have considered the who, the where and the when. But we went further and considered the why and the how.

    Like

  3. Mordanicus says:

    A very likable essay I have written. Personally I am agnostic in regard of philosophical naturalism, but I would like to see any evidence for the supernatural before renouncing naturalism completely. Above all I liked your comparison with multiple people designing a car.

    Like

  4. john zande says:

    An awesome piece, brother… One of the best statements of intent i’ve seen.

    a brief survey of our history shows that man has been better behaved than his god. That the more a man is godless, the more he is likely to be just in his dealings with his fellow man and beast.

    Superbly well-put.

    Like

  5. aguywithoutboxers says:

    My Nairobi brother, you have had a very busy Sunday afternoon. Therefore, I know you have been away from mischief! 🙂 A compelling argument, my friend. I’m very impressed (though not at all surprised). Thank you for a pleasant and refreshing Sunday evening read. Much love and naked hugs! 😉

    Like

  6. I’m another who thinks this was a great post.

    The OP got up my nose by claiming atheism is illogical. There is nothing more illogical than religion. Unlike you, I wasn’t brought up with it.

    What makes your post sing, is that you aren’t denying being naturalist or nihilist (and really, we are born, we live, we die so what’s wrong with that perspective) you state clearly what your purpose on earth, in your short life, is. Not to harm, to help where you can, and to try and enjoy your own life too. What more is there to say?

    Like

  7. Aquileana says:

    Oustanding post my wise makagutu.

    The points worth highlighting here and some personal notes on them

    ►”Hope is a useless word. We would not need it. It exists in our vocabulary because we have so many unmet desires”.
    -I hope HIS hope is not adverse to my tiny hope. “Remember, O LORD, what is come on us: consider, and behold our reproach”.

    ►”To me, evil is anything inimical to my well-being. It need not be justified or rationalized. I believe the universe is indifferent to my joy or suffering.
    -It is, in fact as it is related with a subjective state of mind, it is relative though irrelevant in the cosmic course.

    ►”I see no cosmic meaning for our being here. We will live, we will die and the universe will continue to do its thing. All life is vanit…
    -I think this is so true, it might hurt. ‘Life … is a taleTold by an idiot, full of sound and fury,Signifying nothing.’ … William Shakespeare, Macbeth.

    Keep it up with the great post my friend.
    All the best to you, Aquileana 😀

    Like

    • makagutu says:

      Aquileana, you flatter me dear! Thanks a million.

      The believer would not need live on hope if he believed truly that he serves an omnipotent god. The word would have no place in his vocabulary for before he asks, it would have been made available.
      And have a pleasant week you too.

      Like

  8. Maria F. says:

    When you say in your post “All work is vanity” you remind of my favorite quote by Nietzsche:

    “What a person is begins to betray itself when his talent declines—when he ceases to show what he can do. Talent is also finery; finery is also a hiding place.”-Nietzsche

    Actions can at least be somewhat deciphered, but words, words are like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle that must be fit into the brain, just because it is a language?

    Like

    • makagutu says:

      I must say I love Nietzsche. We should have a group for his admirers.

      Words and thoughts before they become actions are hard to decipher

      Like

      • Maria F. says:

        Makagutu:
        I also meant to add that although I consider myself a naturalist also, I follow Buddhist philosophy passionately, although I do not practice any religion. I believe strongly in Karma, and Metta. It does not mean redemption in any way, it just means that compassion is a path to liberation (psychological or spiritual) from physical attachment. But other than that, I cannot be religious or believe in god.

        Like

        • makagutu says:

          Hello Maria,
          I haven’t read much of Buddhism, but the little that I have I did like so much and when time allows in the future I should spend some time studying it.

          Welcome to our humble blog

          Like

          • Maria F. says:

            Thanks! I also need to study Buddhism more, but its rationalization is based that from the idea that since everything is so ephemeral, compassion is what ultimately has the capacity (according to them) to detach the person from the physical realm. Their philosophy states the “self” is a delusion, and compassion is a way to diminish this “self” that has an “identity”, plus it leads one to “non-attachment” which is an ultimate goal in the philosophy. I also have to study it more, but “Siddhartha” by Hermann Hesse is one of the most beautiful books I’ve read (and I don’t read that much fiction), but that little book helped understand this concept when I was younger.

            Like

          • makagutu says:

            The book that got me interested in Buddhism was Confession of a Buddhist Atheist. Since then I have read the gospel of Buddha, some of his main teachings.
            The philosophy of self being a delusion is prevalent in the Orient.
            It is in the Gita.
            And then there is this which I can listen to on end

            Like

          • Maria F. says:

            Thanks for sharing the video, I enjoyed it.

            Like

          • makagutu says:

            Am glad. I never tire of watching it

            Like

  9. Very thoughtful piece – from a fellow ex-Catholic (there’s a lot of us around these days!).

    Like

  10. themodernidiot says:

    Oh Bra-vo, my friend. This was truly superb.

    Like

  11. themodernidiot says:

    Reblogged this on themodernidiot and commented:
    Fantastic piece of writing from a dear man, who believes in is all even when we don’t. Worth a quiet Sunday sit down. Enjoy.

    Like

  12. shelldigger says:

    Mak, would you be my friend? It is a rare moment when one sees much of his own world view in another.

    Great stuff.

    Like

  13. emmylgant says:

    Wonderful and wise post. It sings as it runs. Thank you my friend.

    Like

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