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.