Why are you such an Atheist?

What do I look like to the believer? Many atheists bristle at the mention of God, and slap him down and fix their definitions to His face as if that changes His nature.

So listen to me when I say: The way I write and act is all to do with the great war between Empathy and the Desire to Dominate. I suspect it is the same for many other atheists.

I have watched enough history to know that religious morality is at times self-contradictory (when two denominations can preach different things about homosexuals from the same holy book, say) and at times aberrant. In practical terms, being a part of a religion and believing in God does not prevent you from committing atrocities, or allowing them to happen. Even if you spend your life fighting for justice and truth, a group of people who are theoretically your co-religionists will always be among those who oppose you and fight for authoritarianism on Earth.

Many of my friends, online and in person, explicitly believe in God, and they are fine and upstanding people. But it is this use of the word God that aggrieves me. Murtaza, who is very much on my side, tells me that God can only exist in this world in human form, which humanizes God to a great extent and makes him into a caring teacher. But this view is entirely compatible with the common beliefs that the true God is power incarnate, God is the determinant of all moral law, God is who you owe your life to. And these beliefs are in turn compatible with far darker ones. You didn’t listen to the teachings, and God made it perfectly clear that you deserved hell for turning away from him. You deserve to be tortured eternally because you aren’t convinced by my ‘profound mystery’. The object of Torture is Torture, yes! Let me go find my thumbscrews.

Do you see? One moment God can be calling your name from heaven, the next he can burn entire populations alive, all with a sense of his own righteousness.

It is this compatibility which is at the heart of the problem for religious people. That the use of the word God to describe so many things makes God’s message impossible to find among the noise of so many beliefs.

For example, you may know these three apologetics arguments that all end with a similar phrase: “we call this first cause God“, or “we call this unifying force of nature God“, or “we call this resurrected human God“. Here, one word is ascribed to three very different things. Is God the creator of the laws of the universe, or is He the beautiful law binding the universe together, or is He the incarnated person of Jesus? In my limited experience, God just becomes whatever you want him to be at the time. Once more, His nature is compatible with many things that are mutually incompatible. This may be what makes religious people so agonizingly tenacious in an argument; even if they understand that (say) what they call God, an atheist would call an unknown causative agent or series of infinite receding causes, they can retreat to one of the many other things that are God and the argument begins again – sometimes even proceeding in a circle. The great Christian theologian and debater William Lane Craig once said that even if all his apologetics arguments were defeated, his personal experience with God would be more than enough proof. Oh deary me.

To ask the religious to let go of the word God is a whimsically unrealistic task. Oh well. I started with myself.

Incidentally, the word ‘atheism’ has almost the opposite problem as God does. The word precisely and simply defines whether you believe in a personal God – and says nothing of your personal ethics. Many people feel that we require a new name for the moral, empathic Atheism, and though some names have already been devised, I find none as satisfactory as the original. So that’s why I’m still an atheist, with a lower-case a, sharing a rather risky categorization with the likes of Stalin.


My position on the universe.

I’ve been impressed with how diverse my audience is. I’ve also been making subscriptions to people who interest me – and not always people I agree with. And I’ve started commenting when I see something I don’t think is right, which might easily be viewed as combative.

So for the sake of fairness I’m going to lay out where I stand.

I conjecture that:
– Everything that is not explicitly prohibited happens.
– Experiencing infinity is prohibited.

Certain physical laws like conservation of momentum drop neatly out of these conjectures – after all, with a perpetual motion machine you would eventually be able to extract limitless energy. More complicated and deep statements like the Penrose conjecture can also be inferred. The first also demands that a universe exist, and is also compatible with several ideas from quantum mechanics, specifically the infinite contributions to the path integral, and the idea of virtual particles making up vacuum energy. The two principals also suggest which set of mathematical axioms can be used to derive physical laws in observable reality.

The other interesting thing about these two is that it states nothing about universes in which infinities are allowed, only that no conscious mind can experience them. It may make sense to think of our observed universe as the one among many that has physical laws disallowing infinities. The other universes might have different laws of physics, but they will be forever beyond the reach of our senses.

We are surrounded at all times by a foaming sea of particles which exist for no other reason than that they can vanish once again before we would be able to resolve the individually. These pairs of particles are uncaused and have equal positive and negative energies for their matter and antimatter parts. It is not hard for me to believe that the universe – in which the matter-energy seems to precisely balance out the gravitational potential energy – works the same way, as an uncaused event needing no excuse to emerge from nothingness. In the last ten years cosmologists have been narrowing down the error margins on estimates for the absolute amount of matter and energy in the universe, and their results increasingly suggest that our universe has zero total energy. Though this will never become a firm conclusion thanks to limited experimental resolution, for me it is at least suggestive.

It is in these terms that I not only reject the hypothesis of a conscious being external to the universe that in some way made humanity and who seeks a personal connection with them, but I advance an alternative that I feel is thusfar borne out by practical experimentation and physical experience. And I say with grim confidence that the universe does not love or even recognize us, that our minds are alien to its, and the only justice in the universe is the justice we discover in ourselves and enforce. Our meek achievements as a species, given this backdrop and upbringing, are in my opinion remarkable. I feel very strongly that it doesn’t make sense discussing human morality in the context of the universe’s nature and fate.

Do you think I am lost? Or incomprehensible? Or merely confused? I’ve been accused of worse. Let me know what you think.

Some good questions!

My good old Toshiba read some of my other posts (possibly this one) and smiled as he asked:

    1: what is truth?
    2: does it require universal approval to call it a truth?
    3: if it is not, than it can be another term of emotional outburst that will lost in the ocean of relativism?

Excellent questions. Let me explain.

Truth is the thing that allows us to know (or suspect) anything about the world or ourselves. ‘The process of using/seeking truth’ is the process of learning about the world. Truth about the nature of the universe is universal, but your personal truths are (of course) personal – though if you explain your truths carefully enough other people might start see it your way. To paraphrase Harrison, many things can wait, but the search for truth cannot wait.

It might be unusual to see truth being spoken of in this way as if it were a actual being, but I have a purpose in calling it this. I want to verbally set it up for a fight against someone else.

Many people worship The God. This God is power incarnate, and he rewards his followers by allowing them to live forever, and sit on a throne in heaven while He destroys all the people who did not worship Him in the right way.

This God is not like Toshi’s, I suspect. This God tries to clothe himself in the splendid mantle of nature and pretends to be its creator, but in the end He is nothingness. He runs like a simulation in people’s minds, controlling their view of the world, and turning it into his: Us, Them. Brother, Infidel. Love, Hate. There is no desire for unity. Always there is an Enemy without or within. Always there is the lust for power and triumph over that enemy, ever growing stronger and more subtle.

This God is schizoid, and bipolar, but more than that He is Evil. I rejected him morally at age sixteen and was eighteen before I was sure He could not hurt me. Because I am from Britain and we have a long tradition of secularism, I call myself an Atheist. I love the universe and humanity though, so when you talk of loving God or serving him I will know what you mean. But the evil God who poisons the souls of so much of humanity? This, I want to rid the world of, whatever name He has and whatever form He takes. I hope my intrinsic kindness will prevent me from being consumed in this mission, because at all times I will reach out with a cybernetic hand for discussion.

It may be another emotional outburst, but that’s the way I am. Thanks for reading.

My creed

When any person finds another, a battle takes place within their mind between two opposing forces. These are: the desire to empathize with and cherish the other person, and the desire to see them humiliated, abused and subjugated. Most people are less likely to feel empathy for people from a different social class, and many latch onto complex moral philosophies to justify the winner of the subconscious battle. Few have the courage to recognize their own motives.

All art requires empathy in order to function, for if you do not viscerally feel the plight of other people, how can you hope to create art that makes an emotional connection to them? Science, as a collaboration, is just as dependent on empathy, and the rewards of science do not empower the original scientist so much as they empower everyone who hears of and can apply those scientific discoveries.

And so, empathy brings us everything that our big brains are capable of bringing, everything unique to us as a species. The desire to dominate and feel power over others makes us brutal and terrible beasts.

I am an atheist and am compelled by absolute morality to fight against the lust for power, triumph and abuse within myself and in the world.