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Posts Tagged ‘certainty’

I don’t like to say “atheist” because I feel like atheists have that same chip on their shoulder that people who feel like their religion is the only right thing have. It’s to know something, to think you know something definitively that, I feel, we as mere mortal humans can’t possibly know. I think it’s just as obnoxious.

Sarah Silverman is right. Atheists are totally obnoxious.

You know who’s especially bad though? Anyone who refuses point-blank to even consider sacrificing their only child on the altar of an unknowable deity. I mean, it’s probably not something I’d do myself – in fact, murdering children because of religious beliefs is something of a bugbear of mine – but the people who claim to know with absolute certainty that it’s wrong? They can be equally annoying.

Also, does anyone else get a little freaked out when chemists keep talking about carbon and calcium and aluminium and so forth, and just presume that those are all actual things? They seem pretty damn sure about that big table with all those elements on it, don’t they? I’m not saying that whole “air, earth, fire, water” thing didn’t have its problems, or couldn’t use some updating, but the extent to which some modern extremists so totally dismiss it in favour of their new paradigm doesn’t sit right with me.

And hey, here’s another bunch who wind me up: heliocentrists. Not all of them, by any means, just the hardcore contingent who put me off wanting to identify with the term myself. Sure, I go along with the claim that the Sun’s at the centre of the solar system with the Earth revolving around it, but is it so hard to even admit that it might be the other way around? That maybe this infinite and incomprehensible universe is stranger than we mere mortal humans can comprehend? The arrogance with which some people just tell flat-earthers that they’re “flat-out” wrong really grates on my nerves.

As if that kind of certainty were really possible within the limits of our human perception. It just comes across as narrow-minded.

Classroom discussion questions

1. Can you think of any other completely one-sided debates where it might be fun to occupy a smug middle ground?

2. How reasonable might it actually be that some people have come to this sort of conclusion about atheists?

3. Is this webcomic ever going to stop being relevant?

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Yeah, so atheism again.

It’s still interesting and important, even if I’ve been drifting somewhat lately, toward other topics on which I’m even less qualified to comment.

And even aside from the occasional appalling and criminal outrage to get angry about, there are still things that wind me up about the ongoing religion discussion.

Here’s the question that’s been bothering me lately:

Why is atheism the only position you can take, in just about any category or field of knowledge, where people think that you must be claiming 100% absolute certainty?

I still regularly hear people banging on about how being agnostic is the only really rational position to take (as if it were mutually exclusive with atheism anyway), because you can’t be sure there’s no God, you can’t know absolutely everything about it, so it must only be intellectually honest to maintain a neutral middle ground.

I’m over-using the italics again already. It happens when I’m annoyed, and this is bollocks of an annoying nature.

I don’t believe in any god. I’m an atheist. There you go.

The idea that I must be 100% certain to make such a claim is entirely without precedent in all other areas of debate. If you expect me to simply stop at saying I’m an “agnostic”, or “undecided”, or “I don’t know” unless I’ve scanned every cubic micron of the cosmos and made absolutely certain there’s no deity hiding behind the dark matter… then why doesn’t this carry over into any other kind of idea or belief?

I’m also a capitalist. Although I’m iffy on exactly where I stand with regard to regulations, broadly speaking I support the idea of a free market economy.

But nobody’s ever told me that, unless I examine a detailed model of every single possible government based on common ownership of the means of production and determined empirically that no form of socialism could ever possibly be better for society, I shouldn’t use a word like “capitalist” which implies such absolute certainty, and insisted that I keep to the I-don’t-know middle ground.

I’m not a monarchist. I don’t support the idea of all political power being heritable and possessed by a single individual.

But I haven’t utterly ruled out every imaginable arrangement within this paradigm, and made absolutely sure that not one of them could ever possibly be functional as a system of government. And nobody would expect me to.

I am of the opinion that the bar of chocolate I’m about to eat doesn’t have any dogshit in. But have I even checked? Shouldn’t I really be ambivalent on the matter? Doesn’t arrogantly declaring “It’s just a chocolate bar, it’s got chocolate in it” imply an awful lot of certainty about the universe that I just don’t have a right to claim?

Well, no. It’s just what I reckon. It seems to make sense. If you want to prove me wrong, fine, maybe I’ll reconsider. But it looks to me like a chocolate bar. And it looks to me like there’s no god.

Not every religious person claims to be 100% irrevocably sure of their faith. But how many of them identify as “agnostic” rather than “Christian”, say, for the sake of intellectual rigour?

Sometimes we just reckon stuff. We could be wrong, but it’s what we think, and we’re waiting on a reason to change our minds.

Anyone else get bothered by this?

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