Saturday, July 21, 2007

On being without Faith

PZ Myer:

The first is a story from Canada about the growing godless movement. It's very positive and avoids the cheap tactic of presenting this as a scary or worrisome prospect.
Ms. Gaylor [of the Freedom From Religion Foundation], who said her group has grown from 7,000 to more than 10,000 since the fall, is not sure that the recent rash of books is winning converts to atheism, but she is certain it is emboldening those in the closet.

When Herb Silverman became a professor of mathematics at the College of Charleston in South Carolina in 1976, people would say to him: "You're the only atheist I know," and he would respond: " No I'm not. You know hundreds of atheists, I'm just the only one who acknowledges they're an atheist."
I predict a slow, steady growth of atheism in the coming years — not because all these vocal atheists have been converting people, but because they are removing the stigma from atheism and getting people to take some pride in their freedom from faith. And what are all these atheists going to do? One of the annoying, baffling habits some people have is to dismiss the idea, because all atheists could possibly do is sit around and talk about nothing. Not true!
"Big questions have been monopolized by religious institutions," says Justin Trottier, 24, who has a degree in engineering, comes from a secular Jewish background and is the centre's executive director. "Atheists are just as interested in questions of meaning, purpose and beginning. Why shouldn't we have a place where we can chat?"
See, we can talk about and do important stuff, the same as goes on in religious institutions … we just do it without larding it full of supernatural monkeypoop, or worse, elevating the monkeypoop to the status of the Most Important Issue. A secular institution should be more effective than a religious one in any significant endeavor, since it doesn't bear the burden of commitment to dogmatic malarkey.

This other story from the LA Times is more depressing. It's about a reporter, a fervent Christian, who joyously leapt into the religion beat, and steadily lost his faith to the incessant corruption of pedophilic priests, greedy Prosperity Christians, and faith-healing frauds. I see another goal for the godless here:
My soul, for lack of a better term, had lost faith long ago --
probably around the time I stopped going to church. My brain, which had been in denial, had finally caught up.

Clearly, I saw now that belief in God, no matter how grounded, requires at some point a leap of faith. Either
you have the gift of faith or you don't. It's not a choice. It can't be willed into existence. And there's no faking it if
you're honest about the state of your soul.
It's a painful piece, and you can tell the writer is grieving for the loss
of his faith — but faith is not a gift. Faith is a delusion. This is a man who should be grateful that he has opened his eyes. He's opened them to an ugly, disillusioning world, true enough, but now he is better able to do something about it. Something far better than praying for an intervention that will never come from an entity that doesn't exist. There should be no sorrow in casting the scales from your eyes.

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