A For Agnostic Atheist

For those close to me, or for that matter not so close to me, it has been clear for some time that I am severely lacking in faith. It would not be fair to say that I was a skeptic for many years. In all honesty, it has been less than two years that I rejected religion in all its forms.

What is my outlook towards the existence of God or Gods one might ask. I will not be so arrogant as to say that I know with complete certainty that God does not exist. All I would say is that since there is no evidence for his existence, he does not exist. But this does not mean that I have a closed mind (ironic that atheists are the ones accused of being close minded). It means that if, and it’s a long shot, if someone shows me irrefutable evidence that God exists, I will accept his existence. To quote Christopher Hitchens,  “That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.”

For all intents and purposes, I describe myself as an agnostic atheist. Why not just an atheist? Because no one who puts scientific inquiry above everything else should be arrogant enough to rule out something outright. However, as it stands, there is about as much evidence for the existence of God as there is for the pink unicorn. So I use the term atheist rather loosely.

Why am I an atheist? If we think about it, aren’t we all born atheists? Whether the concept of tabula rasa is accurate or not has not been proved but it is reasonable to state that our perceptions of spirituality and religion are shaped by external influences. You do not always make a conscious choice to believe in something when you are young. A child of Hindu parents will be brought up to practice Hinduism and the same holds true for a child born to parents of every other religion. To be completely honest, isn’t this anything more than passive brainwashing?

What is the harm in doing this one might ask. One might argue that this brainwashing does not harm the child in any way. Perhaps not. But if you can be brainwashed into believing that there exists a God who loves you but will punish you if you don’t pray to him daily, you can also be brainwashed into believing that God will punish you for not taking someone else’s life. But I agree that this is an extreme example.

And how does one know which God to worship? As Richard Dawkins puts it, “We are all Atheists about most of the Gods there ever were. Some just go one God further.”

This however does not mean I want to destroy religion. What I would like to destroy is lack of reason. A blind faith in something that harms others. I respect the right of EVERY person who believe in what he or she wants to believe. I will fight for the rights of the most religious person to believe that the world was created in 7 days and 6000 years ago. But while I respect the right to have a belief, I am not obliged to respect that belief itself. So while you are free to have faith in what a book written 2000 years ago says, if you try to incorporate those beliefs while taking decisions that affect me, I will take objection to it.

The universe holds several splendors, some of which we have not even imagined. Is it not satisfying when we realize a little each day about how it works? What religion offers is an illusion of certainty. It says with certainty that it knows why we are here, how we came to be and where we will go after we die. But it is this religion which once said with certainty that the Earth was at the center of the Universe. It is religion that made Gods of meteors and demons of eclipses. Religion that equated earthquakes with God’s wrath and tempests with his breath. But the spirit of inquiry has proved all these “certainties” false. In the immortal words of Neil deGrasse Tyson, “God is nothing more than an ever receding pocket of ignorance.”

We all strive to find meaning in this world. We all would like to know what our place in this universe is. Religion can make you believe that there is someone up there looking out for you. But I find solace in the fact that while we do not know everything, we, as a species, will never give up trying. We will never rest till we find our answers. And if our hypotheses are proved false, we will start again from the beginning with an open mind. It is this attitude that makes me happy that I exist right here, right now, unfettered and free of what my less knowledgeable forefathers held to be true.

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “A For Agnostic Atheist

  1. Ravi

    I agree with you for the most part. But why do we have to believe in something (whether god exists or doesn’t). Why cant we accept that we do not know and live with an open mind (as you were saying). In science we do not say I believe there is electric current here. We either know or do not know of its presence. I think the problem is the belief in something we do not know and the overpowering confidence offered by that belief.

  2. I think we are born agnostic, but not atheist. Belief, either way, is a choice in my opinion. You can’t believe or disbelieve in God until you have some concept of God. In fact, maybe we’re born ignostic.

  3. anon

    Funnily both science and religion are very alike.
    Although many concepts such as evolution are accepted as fact, the reason we accept it is that a sufficiently large number of people who we respect have concurred that evolution(or big bang theory …) is fact.

    Religion too spreads in pretty much the same way. Enough people believe in something and after a tipping point, it enters mainstream society.

    But today’s facts can be tomorrows fiction when a more elegant theory explaining the origin of life is proposed. It looks like science too is a religion for the atheist. Just that it changes continually.

    Just saying.

    P.S: Keep writing.

    • That’s not quite the case. Science is not driven by consensus. It is driven by independently verifiable evidence. The laws of gravity were not passed by a vote. It is not possible for any one individual to test ALL scientific facts which is why we have peer reviews and verification by other scientists. Should you choose to do so and have the resources available to back it up, you will be able to verify these facts.

      Of course scientists can be wrong. But when they are, they accept new evidence and start with a clean slate. That’s humility which we all need.

      Science requires evidence, religion merely requires faith. Only one of these presents facts to back up it’s claims.

  4. Pingback: why I do not believe in the existence of atheists « power of language blog: partnering with reality by JR Fibonacci

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