Ricky Gervais: Why I'm an Atheist


Thank you, Outercow, for the kind birthday wishes.
@99- So while playing this semiotic game, you've effectively moved the discussion away from how illogical, irrational and unprovable a belief in god is. Good work.
At some point in a reflective person's life, he/she will begin to engage in metacognitive thought. If the person is especially thoughtful, this will probably occur during late adolescence. The person begins to reason, as Santayana would describe it.

This process will eventually lead to the questioning of one's most fundamental values...questioning why he/she holds them and whether the values should be modified or discarded.

Eventually, the reasoning individual will come to the most fundamental value, regardless of whether the person perceives him/herself to be a subjectivist or an objectivist. What is this preponent value? It is rationalism...

If you examine your values closely, you will eventually have to decide whether your preponent value is to engage in rational thought (that is, to engage in reflective reasoning based on logic and the willingness to modify and/or discard beliefs, hypotheses and arguments that are found to be contradictory) OR your preponent value is a reliance on faith (which can be classified as a form of emotivism, and is contradictory and irrational).

You cannot claim to be both rational and believe in faith. If you do, then rest assured you have engaged in very little thought over your lifetime.

Philosophers have generated rational arguments demonstrating that irrationalism and a reliance on faith leads to contradiction (read Thomas Kuhn's works), but not a single respected theologian has generated a non-contradictory argument that undercuts rationalism. Indeed, the most serious, respected theologians agree that there is no basis for their faith, and they simply accept that they are irrational. Funny thing is that they are OK with this characterization...but then again, they are a fairly saintly group whom I would gladly call brother/sister.

I strive to be rational, as I deem it to be my most fundamental value. What I find difficult to do is take the time to be earnestly reflective. It is SO much easier to make knee-jerk, or spur of the moment decisions (being-in-itself, as Sartre would say).

If theists put their religious beliefs before rationalism, how can we trust them to make reasoned, logical decisions? Think on that...
@ 96, see my response to 100 below; with the additional remark that a) I don't know what you think I'm wrong about, since I asserted several things @ 84, and b) there are TONS of things scientists are exploring for which you could say "there's no need" to explore, but we're doing it anyway. And given the fact that the nature of life and our existence has occupied humans since we first came down from the trees, I find your assertion that curiosity in that direction is "unnecessary and uselss" to be astounding, to say the least.

@ 98, maybe it is a matter of time, maybe it isn't. You've expressed your faith in the matter, though.

@ 100, no. No one supposes that unicorns are responsible for life. That's the problem with that comparison. OTOH, we know life has to come from somewhere; as I said upthread, no life has ever come directly from something that wasn't also alive. Hypothesizing a creator is actually quite logical, but yes, there's no further evidence to prove it beyond that, just as there's no evidence to prove that there's no creator either. Hence, agnosticism.
@104- You keep saying "hypothesizing a creator is actually quite logical," but it's absolutely not. You keep saying "we haven't seen life come from not life" but we've seen the building blocks of life come from not-life whereas we have no evidence of the supernatural at all. You're saying one thing is equal to another when they are not at all equal.

"I find your assertion that curiosity in that direction is "unnecessary and uselss" to be astounding, to say the least."

We've had rape since we came into existence too.
@ 105, why not? Creating the building blocks of life, as you call it, has so far required something that is alive (a human being) to bring it about. Kinda godlike, when you think about it.

Your last couple of sentences are nonsense. You're not curious about how life came about; so no one else should be? And are you suggesting that we shouldn't figure out why rape occurs? If we do that, maybe we can finally end rape. That's a worthwhile goal, don't you think?

Are you sure you're agnostic and not an atheist?

"If theists put their religious beliefs before rationalism, how can we trust them to make reasoned, logical decisions? Think on that..."

I enjoyed reading your post, though I disagree with the conclusion you've drawn. You seem to see logic and reason as the only approach to understanding the world around us. It is a tool, and a very good one, for doing so. But it's hardly the only one.

Put it another way. When a person falls in love and begins a relationship, reason and logic have very little to do with it. When I met my wife I did not reason that I had a decent career, wasn't physically repugnant, and wasn't innately cruel or phsychotic so she might in fact love me as well. At some point a person has to ditch reason and logic in this situation, and rely on intuition and faith that the feeling is returned. Failing those, the relationship simpy won't work. Yet I've met very few who didn't call their marriage and family among the most real things in their lives. I've met very few who thought that since they couldn't quantify, weigh and measure the love they bore their spouse or children it didn't exist.

I would argue in fact that the majority of our major life influences fall into the category of not entirely rational or quantifiable.

I suppose the most succinct response to your post was penned by Shakespeare. "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."
What, no LovesChild batshittery to add to the mix, after over a hundred comments in here? I'm disappointed. You're a poor man's LovesChild, Matt From Denver. Not batshitty enough, sorry.

But Matt From Denver, you're ignoring Rillion's larger point @100: we don't blindly accept the existence of mythical creatures when shown no supporting evidence (such as the unicorn), so why is it valid to do just that when speaking of a creator? Science has yet to create life from inorganic matter as you've said, but papering over the issue with "God dunnit" helps no one. Just because science can't explain or replicate it today, does in no way mean it won't be able to do it tomorrow. Hence, the dragon in the garage, invisible pink unicorn, teapot in orbit, etc.
Matt in Denver, start at 7:00 here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bxRYbDEmr

and continue here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iTAZW1Ayh
Just because science can't explain or replicate it today, does in no way mean it won't be able to do it tomorrow"

All that you've done is make science your blind faith. Maybe it's a better bet, maybe not. But for you, the faith that science has all the answers is as compelling as the existence of God is for the most devout evangelical. I don't necesssarily have a problem with someone doing this. It's when they do so while telling others that they are inferior for having a belief in God that it irritates a bit.
"Just because science can't explain or replicate it today, does in no way mean it won't be able to do it tomorrow"

All that you've done is make science your blind faith. Maybe it's a better bet, maybe not. But for you, the faith that science has all the answers is as compelling as the existence of God is for the most devout evangelical. I don't necesssarily have a problem with someone doing this. It's when they do so while telling others that they are inferior for having a belief in God that it irritates a bit.
@ 109/110, first link is bad.
@ 108, interesting that you have to resort to insult, and compare me to the one slog commenter who couldn't be more different from me, in tone and substance. I'm guessing my non-absolutist position makes you uncomfortable?

Again, the problem with comparing a creator or creators to unicorns is that no one who has ever believed in unicorns (if, in fact, anyone ever has) ever believed they created life. Same with minotaurs, winged horses, dragons, etc. We can call these mythical creatures because they were supposed to be animals on this earth, like us; we can say they never existed because we have a set method for seeing what animals have lived on this earth. The method for proving or disproving a creator's existence, OTOH, doesn't even exist.

The other problem with Rillion's point is that, contrary to what he and other atheists assert, there IS one bit of evidence is support of some kind of creator - the existence of life and matter. It couldn't all have come from a void, could it? As long as we can't create something from nothing, the notion that something other created everything is a valid one. It only becomes a problem when people start insisting that they KNOW the answer in the absence of any additional evidence one way or the other. This is where atheism and religion are the opposite sides of the same coin.
@103 Approaching 40 in LA: Cut, pasted and saved...beautiful, concise, well written...thanks.
@104 "No one supposes that unicorns are responsible for life. That's the problem with that comparison. OTOH, we know life has to come from somewhere; as I said upthread, no life has ever come directly from something that wasn't also alive."

Okay, I say it came from unicorns.

Whew! That's reassuring. It was so agonizing not having some kind of placeholder to account for something that isn't yet explained, something I can believe in for no other reason than the fact that I can't stand to not have answers for things. It would be such a travesty to say "You know what? I don't know" and leave it at that. Which, by the way, is not agnosticism. It's atheism.
@114: I wasn't insulting you. That was me complimenting your on your calm discussion of the topic, despite having no leg to stand on, in my opinion. I guess the facetiousness didn't come through. Though to address your new point, people have believed in, what did he say, 2,800 different deities throughout human existence so far, and we wouldn't treat someone who still believes in the Greek or Egyptian pantheon with any seriousness, so why is it that the religions of today should get a pass? They're all literally the same stories, just updated from their predecessors.

@111: "Maybe [science is] a better bet, maybe not." Maybe? You would go back to living in a world before the advent of agriculture? Maybe back to when it was thought disease was the wrath of a vengeful god? Personally, I'm very glad that we've progressed beyond the Bronze Age. If it were left to the church, we certainly wouldn't have. "God dunnit" is not the same as "we haven't figured that part out yet; maybe we never will." Religion is more often than not regressive; science is nothing but progressive.
@ 116, the last time I looked up the definition of agnosticism, it said that it was the denial that the question "Is there a god?" was one that could be answered. If you believe that's atheism, then your beef is with most self-described atheists.

@ 117, sorry for missing that. Thank you.

It might look like I'm defending religion. I'm not. I'm just defending the notion of a creator being an explanation for where life came from. But that's where it ends; once someone says "THIS is how it happened," it's completely made up.

I don't believe in any religion or god. But I don't see any good reason to conclude that none actually ever existed. We just don't know. Maybe we'll reach the point were we can have something with which to test whether there was a creator or not. But I don't believe science is anywhere near that point, despite what Hitchens or Dawkins might say about that.

What was meant by 'maybe' is that I'm unconvinced that fanatics about science, those who make a kind of religion of it, are philosophically better than fanatical evangelicals. Neither are particularly open to anything but what they believe already.

Science didn't innovate the origin of agriculture. The scientific method followed agriculture by around 10,000 years.

The Catholic church created the university as an institution, and still runs some of the finest in the world. In Europe hospitals were most often run by the church. Most charitable organizations in western societies were church affiliated. Advances in agriculture, husbandry and various manufacturing from wine to cheese were all heavily influenced by the church or derived from monastic houses. The beginning of understanding of genetics were by a monk working in a monastic garden. Yes, it was and is often reactive rather than progressive, but you could say that about virtually any heirarchical organization. I'm far from saying that the Catholic church or any religion is perfect or has a stainless history. I am saying that the recent historical revisionism painting religion as some kind of malign influence is ridiculous and flies in the face of actual history.

None of this matters from the perspective of whether or not there is a God. The relative benefits of religion could be attained even if everything they believed was wrong. Nor do I propose to argue it with you, as it would be a waste of time for both of us. In my humble opinion, science isn't informed by religion, or vice versa. One is a tool for understanding physical reality, the other a tool for understanding spiritual reality.
@70: That the laws of physics work well does not preclude the existence of supernatural forces. I have personally seen things that cannot be explained by the workings of the natural world as we know it. There is not sufficient evidence to reject either null hypothesis, whether you are starting from the assumption that there is a god or that there is no god. My belief in God is not a product of scientific reasoning; it is an artifact of my own personal faith, which by definition precludes a lack of evidence.
@83: "inconceivable"
You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
@91: "close only counts in horseshoes"
And hand grenades.
@102: OF COURSE God's existence is unprovable! That's the whole point of faith; believing without having been given proof!
@107: Actually, biologists have a pretty good understanding of the forces behind romantic and sexual attraction.
And Hamlet had just come face-to-face with his father's ghost when he said that.
@119: Guess-and-check is actually a very important part of science; you do need to acquire some amount of information before making a hypothesis. Guess how early agriculture came about? (And then check your answer against an encyclopedia or something.)
You point to examples like Gregor Mendel to support your revisionist history of religion and science? Christianity has, throughout history, been very fond of science, so long as that science doesn't conflict with any Church teachings. Remember Galileo Galilei? He was persecuted by the Church simply for reporting his observations and their implications. How long did it take the Church to officially clear his name?
Your last two sentences, though, I am in full agreement with.
@118 / 119: Wow, not often I get to respond this way to two posts at once, but:

Thank you for the clarification. I can agree with that.
Re 107

"Actually, biologists have a pretty good understanding of the forces behind romantic and sexual attraction."

Yep. Which worked really well when they left the lab and tried to pick up the swimsuit model and her cheerleader friends at a bar while still wearing the lab coats and pocket protectors, right? There is an abyss of difference between a theory about why people meet, fall in love and marry and the actual facts of doing so. In this area and most others, there is often more to a thing than the sum of its parts.

And yes, Hamlet had just come up against something he and his buddy from Wittenberg couldn't explain from an academic standpoint. In this case his father's ghost. I thought you yourself were indicating that not all experience neatly fits a scientific mold. If you were, you were right. Doesn't mean a scientific endeavor to figure these experiences out isn't in order, just that it may not bear any fruit.
Nothing like watching skinny pants-wearing hipster fucks get on people's shit for being all smug and superior. Don't you have mustaches to wax?
@107 I acknowledge that irrational thought processes play major roles in our lives, and perhaps a more important role than being rational. We are, after all, emotional animals.

I would encourage people to take the time and be reflective when they make important decisions, and to ALWAYS engage in deliberate, rational thought when making ethical decisions (that is, decisions that have an impact on others and the environment).

I appreciate that we can never be entirely rational, and it would be a sad world if that were so. Mr. Spock may be interesting to hang around with when you're in a bind, but he's not going to be your best friend, or your lover, or an artist who captures the essence of the human condition. Indeed, aesthetic decisions, projects and choices, and many of our social interactions need not involve reason (rational or irrational) at all. You can make love in a meadow, enjoy nature's beauty, trip out on hallucinogens or play a game amongst friends without using rational thought....and why not engage in such activities? They make life enjoyable.

However, when any project begins to take an ethical turn, or when you are contemplating a course of action that will have profound significance, I ask you, are you going to rely on faith to make your decision?

If the answer is yes, then I cannot trust you to make a good decision.

When you met your spouse, your body kicked huge doses of chemicals into your brain, and you were at your most emotional. This period went on for a significant amount of time, but then you began to systematically make reasoned, rational decisions as your relationship grew and reality took over. None of this ever involved faith. Faith is accepting that something is correct or true without questioning it.

A person may live his/her life to the fullest extant without resorting to faith in a deity, which, by the way, is a positivist notion. To believe in a god, one must create the belief...it does not spring from nothingness. Such a belief either relies on faith or is eventually destroyed by rational thought.

@115 Canuck. Thanks, I enjoy your posts too.
@103, @124: Holy crap, in two posts, you manage to sum up my entire worldview. I don't think I could've done that! Thanks :)

So you wouldn't be opposed to creationism being taught as part of the science curriculum?

Besides, How the fuck did we get to creationism when this whole thread is supposed to be about organized religion and it's moral impact on society, not it's battle with science.

Oh, I see...comments @79,80 are where we took that turn

And the essence of religion isn't to explain life as we know it. That came later as science gave us a better understanding of the natural world. Initially, religion was to help explain natural phenomena and then it became a tool to control the masses.
@ 126, creationism? You haven't comprehended a word I wrote.

"This whole thread is supposed to be about organized religion and it's moral impact on society.."

Oh, well, if that's what you want-

Religion at worst gave an excuse and a format for people behaving halfway decently to each other. It gave a context for morality, and a reason for being moral. Religion introduced concepts like the golden rule and similar altruistic notions. You would call this control, and it is of a kind. Controlling our worst impulses and giving the better ones a shot at being expressed is hardly criminal though. And 'at worst' assumes that no deity in fact exists. In this case every religion of which I'm aware is wrong, but not mendacious. That is, they are incorrect about whether their specific version of God exists, but they aren't lying about it.

If in fact a deity does exist, religion is a means for coming to some understanding of God. It isn't perfect, whether you mean by religion Budhism or Christianity or Paganism. All are approaches invented by human beings, not by the deity. Put another way, God is definitionally infinite. Religion is definitionally finite since the human minds which created it are finite. In this case as well the errors of religion aren't in the vast majority of cases those of malice or ill intent. They are the inevitable errors in any human system.

So, whether God exists or doesn't, the moral impact of religion has been positive. This is true whether you bring up abuses like Jim Jones or the Haley Bopp comet loony. Taken overall, religion has been a bettering influence on human populations.
@125 Stowe: Thank you for your kind words, but no, I have not articulated your worldview. Your worldview is infinitely more complicated than what I discussed.

I have poorly described the epistemological juncture a reflective individual eventually hits when he/she overcomes the existentialist angst that Kierkegaard so nobly posited, Sartre so confusedly described and which Leibniz so glibly rejects [poor, neurotic Kierkegaard, by the way, is highly regarded by Western theologists...the modern, learned Christian can only perceive "man" as achieving purpose in his existence through the granting of essence from God...beautiful construction, that, but it can be replaced with other, more fulfilling, ideas].

The key here is being deliberately, methodically reflective. Few theists engage in real thought, or really contemplate their beliefs on any substantive level. They don't even question their faith...which, I'm told, you need to do in order to find a true relationship with the Protestant conceptualization of God. I guess that the majority of them, on the most fundamental level, are scared to question. Their being will be shattered.

No, Stowe, by reflecting upon that preponent value you can eventually construct a personal ontology that needs no referencing to a god, or to a superior being. But this is extremely hard to do in a deliberate, methodical fashion. That will eventually form your being. That will project your worldview...until you hit Richard Rorty...and honestly, that guy was incomprehensible.

More important, and what is germane to SLOG in general, is that we all be rational in making our ethical decisions (those decisions that affect others and the environment). When a professed Christian places his/her faith before rationality, they are demonstrating their willingness to use religious teachings to make ethical decisions that affect you and me. I cannot trust that, but have to put up with it in this backwards world.

Whereas, Stowe, I can trust you to make sound ethical decisions...or at least to listen to reasoned argument and reflect for a while before you make them. And because of that, Stowe, I am happy.

I have to confess that the clear delineation you seem to see between aesthetic and ethical decisions eludes me. Nor, if it exists as you see it, do I think the practical effect it would have advantageous.

I agree that when we make decisions, considering the implications such decisions have on others is imperative on us. I just don't know any decision that doesn't fit that criterion. From the very mundane perspective, I walk my dogs each morning and each evening. More often than not, this is a pleasant and regenerative experience, a break from the stresses of any adult persons life. Occasionally it's pouring down rain or I'm running late or I'm not feeling well, and it becomes an obligation which rests on me whether I wish it or not. I could elect not to walk the dogs, and no-one will care. No-one will go hungry because I didn't take them for their evening run. Children in Haiti won't develop cholera for the lapse in my duty to my pets. Because I chose to have dogs and the responsibilites and enjoyments that come with them, the moral duty is to walk them anyway whether the consequenses are important or not.

Point is, every decision we make runs on a continuum. At one end are those decisions which directly impact others and which impose clear obligations on us. On the other are those which aren't so important and whose implications aren't so clear or just seem inconsequential. But the kinds of decisions I make when no-one appears to be affected but me speak loudly and clearly to the kind I'll make when others rely on my judgement.

You see those who believe in God as incapable of making the latter kind of decision responsibly. You see them as irreflective or shallow in thought. I beg to differ. In attempting to let even the smallest decisions and actions reflect a moral or ethical principle such people are precisely those you want dealing with decisions affecting millions or billions of others.

Nor would I characterize Thomas Acquinas, Boethius, Kierkegaard or Pascal as irreflective or irrational thinkers, theologically inspired or not. You may disagree with the conclusions they draw, but to call them anything but the brilliant men they were would be irrational itself. I can recognize the brilliance of a Hitchens or Dawkins while finding their conclusions about the world and God unfounded and their personal style arrogant and un-professionally rude. What I fail to understand is the inability of them and those they inspire to do likewise.
Why is everyone capitalizing "atheism"? It's not a religion, people! No capital A needed!
@130 Much of what you and I are saying is the same, just articulated differently. And, you are mainly correct in perceiving me as viewing most theists as relatively unreflective and shallow in thought. If you wish to debate, I shall continue:

Yes, there is a continuum that flows between non-ethical and ethical decision making, and it is usually difficult to characterize a dilemna or decision as falling squarely into one or the other. Yet, as our world becomes more complex, our actions increasingly fall into the ethical realm. For example, a modern person's daily consumption of resources has an enormous impact upon the environment and on people who live far from the individual. Even your decision to walk your dogs has a small ethical component, as a failure to exercise, acclimate and socialize your dogs has the distinct possibility of creating annoying or neurotic animals (which your neighbors or small children may well rue). You said yourself that there are responsibilities that come along with the raising of animals.

On the other hand, there are thousands of purely non-ethical decisions that we all make each day. Some of these are extremely trivial, such as my decision to pick my nose with my left or right index finger. And, others are essential for living a healthy life, such as my spiritually-rewarding decision to contemplate the beauty of my daughter's face as I gaze at a lunar eclipse on the winter solstice.

But, whether or not there is a continuum of non-ethical and ethical decisions does not affect the choice a person must ultimately make when meta-cognitively reflecting upon his/her most fundamental values. If you sit down and make a hierarchical list of those values, you will ultimately come to a point where you must decide HOW you assign value...and this will be your preponent value.

As I said earlier, my preponent value is rationalism. Rationalism allows me to accept, reject or modify all of my other non-trivial and non-aesthetic values. One may also choose as one's preponent value irrationalism, which encompasses nihilism and emotivism...of which theism forms a subset. And, as I stated in an earlier post, rational arguments can be made that refute irrationalism, but there are no non-contradictory irrational arguments that refute rationalism. By the way, Nihilism is the hardest to refute through rational argument...not theism.

If you willingly choose to place theistic faith before rationalism, then you willingly choose your fundamental values in an irrational fashion. And, yes, I would then say that I cannot trust your decision making.

In your fourth paragraph, are you not attempting to say that you use faith in every small aspect of your life? And that your decision making is moral? And that such moral individuals are exactly those we should have making decisions that affect millions or billions of people? Well, I do not subscribe to that morality. In fact, I am immoral in the strict sense of the word...not the common sense. I subscribe to making rational ethical decisions rather than moral decisions. There is a distinction, and I do not trust those who base their decision making on a set of theistic moral tenets. How could I? Theism is a non-rigorous form of irrationalism.

This is probably your greatest concern (as it is of most Christians): How can an atheistic rationalist have a developed moral sense that is not based on theistic principles? Is that not what religious people are afraid of?

The answer is that we do not have developed moral principles, we have very highly developed ethical principles and are immoral people. If a person comprehends that, then we can have a real debate.

You've taken the position that the belief of there being no God is as logical as there being one, right? And that the reason we are alive and there is life is either because of some electro-chemical process or some intelligent designer creating us, both having equal validity as an explanation for life. Am I jumping to my own conclusions?


So the excerpts from Ricky Gervais' interview had nothing to do with what is life or how we got here. Ricky's argument is that the institution of religion should not be necessary to keep people morally and ethically straight, so to speak. That it's a sad fact knowing that most of the population need to be reminded (with the threat of eternal damnation) on a regular basis to help others in need, etc. see @92

"Here's what I hate about Christians: Their goddamned sense of smug superiority. As smug as Atheists can be - and there are plenty of bad ones - Christians often aren't any better. It's not enough to be content in their belief; they have to try and convince you, too. Only difference between an evangelical atheist and an evangelical Christian is the endgame." Uh-huh. Like bombing abortion clinics and boycotting soldiers' funerals. Or allowing you to make up your own mind with actual information instead of assertions to "be like unto a child" and never question. PS: Absolute Obedience.

That's my response to the fucked-up and insane #15.

But THIS?!?
"I'll believe what I want to believe, and I'll gladly let you do the same. But the second you try to convince me to believe in - Allah, Christ, Buddah, Jove, Lilith, or Nothing at all - I'm going to stick a knife in your guts and let you bleed out in the street. "

WTF? I hope you're a goddamned liar, because...for fuck's sake, you weirdo.

And furthermore, atheists don't knock on my door, or YOUR door. Nor do they tend to "stick a knife in your guts and let you bleed out in the street."

I'm sure you can find a passage in the bible that can rationalize that behavior. There's no almighty inerrant Word of Atheism that can justify anything.

Oh, wait, there IS a passage in the bible (Deuteronomy 13:10) that justifies that very thing, except for the knife thing. If anyone preaches any other religion but [Judaism], it's the LAW that you must stone him right there where he stands. Preferably a family member must be the first to do the stoning. So put away your knife, 15. You're doing it wrong.
Faith is about 'faith in.' It's not belief that x really happened but belief in the story of an event that bowled people over. Many Christians believe in Christianity but don't necessarily believe Christianity. They are not magical thinkers. I believe in mystical truth but whether it exists is of no interest to me. Faith is what captures your imagination, inspires you. Lacking faith is neither here nor there.
There's so much wrong with this "debate," where to begin? Maybe with the claim that belief in God is foolish because (1) there's no scientific evidence for his existence or (2) his existence is incompatible with what science has shown to be true of the world. These arguments might work against belief in the Greek gods, who were not envisioned to be creators ex nihilo of the universe (which, in Greek thought, had always existed).

But they don't work for the Christian and Jewish God, who has for millennia been said to be the creator of the universe and everything in it, including time itself. To use an analogy, the Christian God is to the universe as Shakespeare is the universe of Hamlet. So, just as you wouldn't disbelieve in Shakespeare because the play Hamlet contains no internal proof of Shakespeare's existence (other than the existence of the play itself), the same holds true of God. Christians do not expect to look at cells under microscopes and find Made by Yahweh tags. And they don't expect to see God's face when they peer out into space in telescopes. Why? Because God is not a "character" in this universe like a Unicorn, but rather the creator of it ALL -- including unicorns, if they do indeed exist.

Of course, as all analogies do, the Shakespeare analogy ultimately breaks down because Christians do believe God interacts with this universe. And, further, we believe that God did in fact become an internal character in the universe when he became man. But the manner in which God interacts in the universe is still one in which our love of God is always voluntary -- and hence based on faith. God is King, but he is not a tyrant. Our experiences of him, such that they are, are always susceptible to at least two interpretations: (1) that we are indeed experiencing the source of all life and truth and beauty, or (2) that human beings are just a bunch of atoms arranged in such a way that in all times and places and cultures we are prone to seek a spiritual Source that does not, in fact, exist.

So you can search for God or not. You can take his love or leave it. You can choose to believe, or be open to belief, or not. But if you do decide to pursue God, not only will you realize he has been pursuing you all along, but you will see that your belief in him is much closer to the way you trust your mom and believe in democracy and love the simple joys of life like holiday dinners with friends than it is to the way you affirm scientific facts like E=MCsquared.
@137: As to the first couple paragraphs, the reasoning you are questioning isn't false. He just didn't add in the part about how it's illogical to believe something for which no evidence is provided.

You might not be able to KNOW whether life was created or whether it developed naturally but the evidence points in only one direction so why bother believing in the other?

Also: what you call seeking a spiritual source I call seeking answers to questions whether we can know them or not. Atheists and scientists don't reject that this feels good or that they themselves take part in these actions. They don't, as a whole, deny themselves the satisfaction of trust and belief in other people, or ideas, or fantasy, they are simply aware more strongly of the distinction between what SHOULD be believed in and what we WANT to believe in. What ACTUALLY connects the universe and what we IMAGINE connects it.

Establishing that border between the two isn't necessary to live a satisfying life, per se, but it is important in further advancement of ones self and that of humanity. Not to mention the source of all knowledge of the natural world.
It is easy to be smug as an Atheist. From our point of view, it's all to simple to think of the religious people around us as fools, and dangerous ones at that, who take their moral compass from a book rather than from reflection and compassion. But this is a mistake. Some people need spiritually, need God, and I don't want to take it away from them. It's a part of the human condition, an essential component of character that defines my parents and others, and enriches their lives. See @137 when he writes "But if you do decide to pursue God, not only will you realize he has been pursuing you all along". That is a beautiful line, sir :)

I rejected my Christian upbringing when around the same time I hit puberty. Coincidence? I have no idea :p
Here's the thing: I absolutely wanted to believe. I tried so hard to find God, but could not reconcile him with the rational part of my brain that was drinking in the world. When I finally made the decision that I did not believe, and did not have to, it was like an immense weight had been lifted. For me, I was always meant to be an atheist.
Such great quotes.

I'm hanging on to these too.

I especially like 'no one owns being good'

I think one of the reasons that Christianity has prevailed is because in our attempts to break away from it, we have been inexperienced at the practice of being autonomously good.

Even today, when atheism is very common, it appears that the number of really kind people, people who sacrifice a lot to help others in need, these people are still pretty thin on the ground in the atheist communities compared to the Christians.

It seems we atheists still have a way to go in cultivating a culture and cultural traditions which have at their centre, being good to others.

A gap has been left where Christianity once lived, and many of us are yet to fill it with something better rather than something bland, such as self interest.
Those who claim loudest and most frequently as to their piety and charity are usually the least in both measures.

As is so often proven in history.
@ 137 and 139: You can have the use of rationalism as your proponent value and still be a spiritual person. It is when people place faith above the use of rationalism that we create many types of conflict within society.

Think about it. If I use rationalism, or at least earnestly strive to use rationalism, to govern all of my ethical decision making, then it still leaves an infinite realm (on the individual or even small-group level) for spirituality to play a role. I may be spiritual (which I personally find hard to define but realize on a rational level to be related to my brain structure and body's chemical equilibria) in any or all of my trivial, non-ethical and aesthetic decision making processes and it need not interfere with anyone. This places spirituality on the same level as art or the appreciation of the sublime.

Isn't it criteria for spirituality that it be highly personal and not mundane? We can probably all agree that ethical interactions between humans and their environment, and ethical decision making are usually quite mundane. Yet, isn't that the major aim of every religion, to interfere with human interactions? Organized religion is all about control, not spirituality.

This process of compartmentalizing spirituality does not cheapen it. In fact, I would say that it cheapens spirituality to build a codified religion (run by people who are essentially politicians) that strives to interfere with ethical decision making. It pollutes the sublime and makes one question the motives of those in control of such a religious movement.

I would gladly clap Seattleblues (and other seemingly well-intentioned people) on the back if he would place rationalism first and firmly put his spiritualism into a realm that does not affect me. The old argument that Christianity is responsible for so much good in this world is tired, because it is simply people grasping at straws to bolster their irrationalism...they try to use it as backwards justification of their beliefs.