Atheism is dead

So says a christian

Augustine was wrong and everyone else after him who has repeated the trope

Every human soul longs for union with its creator, whether that soul cares to acknowledge this truth or not. It is why we were created.

has been equally wrong.

If you are African, especially one who follows traditional religion, such a statement makes no sense. The African believes he lives in a religious universe and there is no search for god that man should be doing as they are always in communion with god, but who am I to stop the religious from being absurd.

 

Advertisements

Practical atheism?

That’s not what one gets when they read this post by Fr. Jerry. It is like he has created straw men against whom he has argued almost successfully against, where almost is the keyword.

Whereas the problem of evil is a serious challenge to the being of an all loving and powerful god, I don’t often hear, as the priest claims, of people who say they no longer believe in god because there’s so much evil and suffering. That, I think, is a creation of the good priest. It’s true the crucifixion has little appeal but that is not reason enough to be atheistic.

The priest says, and I haven’t seen the memo

As a rule, atheists invoke the supremacy of science.

which is not supported by fact. Atheism, being limited to lack of belief in deities, does not need any scientific claims to buttress it. There have been atheists throughout the ages when science was not advanced as it is today. I could argue, on the contrary that atheism really is about rationality. You do not need to invoke any scientific principle to question the lack of evidence for deities.

He goes ahead to say

True atheists view science as a means by which to solve certain technical problems, to make life easier, or to reduce suffering.

which may mean only true atheists resort to science. The not true atheists don’t rely on science or they don’t exist.

The good priest tells us the christians know it is god teasing them with mystery. This is a claim made without any supporting evidence. We must take the priest’s word for it.

The priest, having told himself the universe must have a creator, throws a swipe at the atheists and tells us

Atheists typically explain creation with the purported science of the big bang theory. Matter was contained in a capsule the size of a walnut, and Bang! the universe began to expand.

which is interesting given, first, that the idea of a big bang has its origins in the works of a catholic monk and two that several scientists have explained the term big bang was used as a place holder. The atheist can have no opinion on the big bang or origins of the universe without contradiction.

The good priest, however doesn’t stop at the big bang. He tells us

After eons of evolution, an amoeba became a fish, a fish became a lizard—and down the line—finally, a monkey gave birth: not to a monkey, but to the first potential atheist.

and one is made to ask who taught him evolution. Was his teacher this bad?

He tells us, the christian believes, god created the universe ex nihilo. But he doesn’t stop there. He lies. He says

But Adam and Eve wanted to play the part of God, to tell God what good and evil is.

The good book doesn’t at any point claim the two ignoramuses wanted to tell god what is good and evil. This is not possible since they only came to know of good through eating of  the tree of knowledge of good and evil, a tree which, if it was planted in the garden is all god’s fault. There was always the option of keeping the seeds in god’s pocket or not mentioning it altogether. But the priest is not interested in reason, no, he tells us

Original Sin, therefore, is the choice to become a practical atheist—to claim the authority of God on our own.

Let’s not forget that the idea of original sin is a creation of the church of Rome. And nowhere do we read in the bible Adam and Eve claiming the authority of god anywhere. To call them practical atheists for eating a fruit, is to me an insult to human intelligence. Adam and Eve, if they existed, did not need persuasion to know there was a god. It was impossible for them to be atheists. I mean, for fucks sake, they lived next door to god.

The priest to bring Jesus into the picture, tells us

Without a Savior to overcome evil, all of us would be condemned to the fires of Hell

which is  ridiculous. God creates hell so it can punish humans for small infractions that it made it possible for them to commit? If we believe the priest, without eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge, there would be no death. One must ask the good priest why then, does god send the two hapless fellows from the garden before they eat of the tree of life? Or are we to assume, the gods would have left them feast on the tree of life and become like them?

The Epicurean principle of “seek pleasure and avoid suffering” is seen by the priest as not good enough for a moral life. He says it can be argued that is how the atheist lives their lives. Sometimes one can withstand suffering, if it is for a short duration and the gains are greater, for example, the pain of having a tooth removed or a surgery to remove a growth. It is suffering for which no benefit can be accrued that we must question as rational beings, such as, what good comes out of the rape of a child?

One would think, if you listened to the priest only, that only atheists have abortions or are pro-choice. The good priest, not tired of attacking straw men, writes

To avoid personal suffering, antiseptic and murderous violence—where the screams are unseen, silent, and without legal repercussions—is permissible as a matter of “choice.”

I don’t know about you, but I am yet to hear of any moral absolutes set up by the atheists anywhere in the world. I was not around when there was a sexual revolution in the 60s in the US? Was it atheists who led it? But then again what is wrong with sexual freedom?

One wonders whether the priest is arguing for sexual misconduct, like the priests have been found to have been guilty of in several places around the world when he says

The practical atheist insists on the supreme value of choice and consent as the only proper boundaries for his sexual pursuits.

Are we to read this as an argument against consent?

I do not, for the life of me, know which atheist the priest has in mind. Maybe it his own creation. He writes

 [..]He may appeal to science—except when science interferes with his lifestyle.Then the moral principles of the atheist allow for the distortion of authentic science in pursuit of his pleasures.

How, tell me, is this statement by Justice Kennedy

“At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”

the true definition of original sin? Does it exclude the christian from defining his or her life as having meaning only in the belief and obedience to gods? Or does it stop the Muslim from deriving meaning from his belief in the supremacy of the Koran and hadiths? Is the priest trying to be a thought cop? He wants a situation where the church defines the concept of existence, meaning and any contrary opinion is heresy and ripe for the stake, as in the days of old.

One would think all the conflicts in the world are because people have been atheistic. The good priest not to be outdone in creating straw-men writes

Of course, the cumulative result of such uncompromising selfishness is what a comfortable atheist detests: injustice, conflict, hatred, murder. An honest atheist is unable to justify selfless acts of virtue. Without God, the chaos of an atheistic world would be normative.

Anyone who has read a little bit of history is aware of the many injustices committed in the name of god. The Catholic killing the protestant, both of them killing the Jews and finally, the Muslim killing all of them. To then pretend this is all because there are atheists is to tell a bold faced lie.

There is no paradox between there being no god and people being just, kind or loving. These traits are important for life in community. Societal life would be impossible if all we did was kill each other. We would be extinct. You need no gods to explain this. Common sense, which the priest seems to have quit its use, is enough to give insights into this.

The sacrifice of a soldier in battle is for most times stupid. Most often, soldiers go to war to fight people who have done them no wrong on the behest of some functionary who is having a beer or wine at their expense. That said, the soldier is trained to do just that. It would be thought of them as cowards if they didn’t make sacrifices here and there. It is expected that a father should rescue their child from danger. To say we only do this because of a god is to reduce all human feeling and response to belief in chimeras.

The story of the crucifixion is not one of love but of depravity. It is to make a virtue of violence. Besides, in the story, the fellow comes back. And if Jesus is a god as the catholic wants us to believe, then how does a god dying affect humanity?

While I agree we should reflect on our individualism, but it shouldn’t be replaced by belief in chimeras. It is must be about practicalities of life. We should see ourselves as members of a community with different beliefs and cultures and work towards living in harmony with one another.

Atheist experience in Africa(?)

It is while reading this post that the question occurred to me of what is the atheist experience in Kenya. First, works such as those by Mbiti add credence to the claim

that Africans are deeply religious and theistic.

I also think the main thesis of the piece, that

The way and manner that atheists in Africa are treated have largely been overlooked. What atheists encounter in the course of their lives has not been adequately highlighted.

Is largely true. Unlike the author, I have not had the opportunity to attend a large gathering of freethinkers or agnostics and atheists. Well, I have attended a beer drinking session organised by my godless friends but never a conference.

Those who have followed this blog long enough recall the furore over registration of an atheist society in Kenya that wound up being decided by the high court in the favour of atheists. Generally, however, it can be argued almost convincingly that atheists are invisible. It is however hard to tell if it is by design or whether it is as a result of mistreatment or a fear of atheists to speak up.

Because I am not a social scientist, nor am I going to do a longitudinal study of atheist experience in Kenya any time soon, the sample for this post is yours truly and the conclusions drawn from it cannot be said to apply to the general population.

In many instances when I have spoken of my godlessness, others have claimed it is a phase, while others think I am confused or worse still others think I am pretending. They convince themselves that I am a believer in their god, maybe even more devoutly so, especially since to some of them, my knowledge of the bible is superior to theirs. The explanation that I read it every so often just to be able to respond to their claims doesn’t cut it with many people.

My workplace is the best. I love my colleagues. While majority are christian only divided by the cult they have opted to associate with, religious discussions hardly feature in our interactions except when I am in my cheerful self and making fun of a thing or two about their beliefs.

While I have read of people who have been disowned by their families, especially America or whose relationships have broken down, I have no such fear. My immediate family is resolved to my godlessness. It bothers no one. My extended family has no such say in how I live my life, so there is no chance they would do something so drastic. Besides, how would they achieve their ends? Block me from going to my house?

What I would however hope for is to get more writings by African scholars on atheism from an African perspective. The Judeo-Christian and Muslim conceptions though interesting, are no longer attractive to me. I am interested in whether in the traditional African societies, atheism existed and how was it articulated? How did society respond to the claims of atheism or is it a western thing in the continent finding its foundation in the rejection of both the missionary and colonial overlord.

I am aware that some of the Kenyans who were at the forefront in the fight for independence, who had at first converted to christianity either quit or only appeared to believe while in public. It is also the case that some of the Independent African Churches were a repudiation of some of the teachings of Jesus, some to the extent of claiming divine revelation without the need for Jesus. These aspects should interest a cultural anthropologist which I am not. My interest would extend only as far as how they treated of houses of worship, if they had such or whether worship took place under sacred trees, stones or in caves. The rest lies in the province of social and cultural anthropologists.

In the next month or two I will read Nkrumah’s Consciencism (if I can find it) and his exposition of materialism as a philosophy. Two books by Okot p’Bitek Decolonizing African Religion and African Religion in Western Scholarship will also be looked at.

I think the thesis of the article attached above has some truth in it, considering for example the experience of atheists in Egypt, Nigeria and so on. But since a study or poll covering Africa hasn’t been done, we can agree there is much more work to be done. Asking atheists of their experience would not be enough. To be meaningful for our purposes, I do think it would be useful to also find out how the rest of society views us.

As a starting point, any atheist, especially of African descent and living in the continent should weigh in. Ark you are not counted :0

Is atheism good for society

In the view of Chris Arnade, atheism is an intellectual luxury for the wealthy.

At 16 years old, I was a practicing Catholic, would go for confession every so often. In my circle of friends, enemies and those I was indifferent to, no one I knew was an atheist. If there was an atheist in our midst, must have been a closet one. We are products of the age we live in. In that age, in my village where I lived, atheism was not part of the cultural milieu. Was everyone poor? No, not by a long stretch of imagination.

I am a university graduate and most of my school life I was a practicing Catholic. Was I catholic because I was poor or because I was a product of the cultural milieu I had grown up in? At some point in my studies, I met some atheists but at that time, this chance meeting and spending time together did not result in deconversion. On the contrary, I was at a loss how one could have lived their lives without belief in god, that was how I had grown up. By the time I was graduating, I was nominally a christian but neither had I switched sides.

Now several years later, I am godless. My needs are basically taken care of. As a result of my education and my baloney detector, I am usually able to see a bad argument and in many cases see inconsistencies even in my choices, but that will be the story for my autobiography.

Coming to Chris, he tells us

When I first walked into the Bronx I assumed I would find the same cynicism I had towards faith. If anyone seemed the perfect candidate for atheism it was the addicts who see daily how unfair, unjust, and evil the world can be.

None of them are. Rather they are some of the strongest believers I have met, steeped in a combination of Bible, superstition, and folklore.

which in any case is neither an argument in favour of the bible nor against disbelief. Is it Chris’ argument that there are no atheist homeless and drug addicts? Was he an atheist because there is injustice, cruelty, and so on or because he was convinced that the evidence for deities is wanting? And if this is the case, what has this got to do with drug abuse?

He is right however when he says

They have their faith because what they believe in doesn’t judge them. Who am I to tell them that what they believe is irrational? Who am I to tell them the one thing that gives them hope and allows them to find some beauty in an awful world is inconsistent? I cannot tell them that there is nothing beyond this physical life. It would be cruel and pointless.

because that would make him a jerk. But if and when they ask him about his religious beliefs or lack of that matter, he is not being a jerk when he says he has no belief in the gods or that he thinks their hope in god is inconsistent with their present circumstances, especially if they believe in an all loving god.

I am surprised that Chris did not know people make mistakes. He writes

In these last three years, out from behind my computers, I have been reminded that life is not rational and that everyone makes mistakes.

It doesn’t take genius to know this. Nor do you need to sit behind a computer to know that you make mistakes, your neighbour makes mistakes and so on.

Chris tells us he had an epiphany

Soon I saw my atheism for what it is: an intellectual belief most accessible to those who have done well.

at which point I quote William Foote on freethought

Our salvation is here and now. It is certain and not contingent. We need not die before we realise it. Ours is a gospel, and the only gospel, for this side of the grave. The promises of theology cannot be made good till after death; ours are all redeemable in this life.
Happiness is the only good, suffering the only evil and selfishness the only sin.
Learn what is true in order to do what is right.

but more relevant to his epiphany is the observations of Jean Messlier

We may be asked if atheism can suit the multitude? I reply, that every system which demands discussion is not for the multitude. What use is there, then, in preaching atheism? It can at least make those who reason, feel that nothing is more extravagant than to make ourselves uneasy, and nothing more unjust than to cause anxiety to others on account of conjectures, destitute of all foundation. As to the common man, who never reasons, the arguments of an atheist are no better suited to him than a philosopher’s hypothesis, an astronomer’s observations, a chemist’s experiments, a geometer’s calculations, a physician’s examinations, an architect’s designs, or a lawyer’s pleadings, who all labor for the people without their knowledge.

And maybe Chris is right, on those who have their needs taken care of have the luxury to reason about atheism and not before. In any event, the thing we must do is to heal the dysfunction in society that drive people to misery where their only hope is belief in chimeras and phantoms.

Finally, I am not sure whether this was Chris’ attempt at reflection about his life, experiences with the homeless or a way to attack Dawkins. I for one do not see the reason for writing this

I also see Richard Dawkins differently. I see him as a grown up version of that 16-year-old kid, proud of being smart, unable to understand why anyone would believe or think differently from himself. I see a person so removed from humanity and so removed from the ambiguity of life that he finds himself judging those who think differently

Let’s not be jerks, that’s all. Others will believe in gods others will not. But as yet, gods remain un-demonstrated hypothesis, we are within our rights to ask questions. It would be condescending towards others to argue that because of their situations in life, they should not have access to philosophical questions. This, to me, is like treating them like little children.