The newsletter of the Atheist Society (Australia)
Vol 1 No. 2, Feb, 1993
The world is infected with the New Age disease of uncertainty - shameful fuzziness. This issue discusses why certainty about reality is both possible and, in fact, absolutely essential, if we are to become human. There is nothing wrong with being fuzzy about the fuzzy, but one must be black and white about the black and white! The distinction between the fuzzy and the black and white is itself black and white - the reason for which is so simple that to give an account of it would need a far less brilliant pen than mine.
As well as superbly nutritious food for thinkers is included some helpful advice for our Christian sisters on how to become even less human.
Bewildered in an immense forest during the night, and having only one small torch for my guide, a stranger approaches and thus addresses me:- "Friend, blow out thy light, if thou wouldst make sure of the right path." This stranger was a priest.
What is an Atheist?
Atheism is easily the most misunderstood position of all. It is not a mere piece of dead knowledge, but a living ideal. It is not the superficial rejection of religious gods in order to make life more pleasurable . . . nothing so common. Rather, it is the highest of philosophic goals, the goal which any truth- seeker of worth craves for with all his being.
Note this well: the atheist is fundamentally different to the rest of humanity. While the world pursues happiness, he pursues truth. He pushes reason to extremes, destroying all lies and fantasies along the way. He thinks: "Anything which is not quite true is completely false."
The atheist worships reality: Godless, thingless, selfless reality. He knows that the infinite alone is real and all else is unreal. Any type, or any shade of finiteness is rejected with force. Hence the atheist laughs uproariously at Christians and suchlike who vainly proclaim their petty little concepts to be the infinite truth.
Atheism is so noble, so high an ideal that few can realistically aspire to it. Just think of it. To reject everything false! Oh, how I tremble at the mere thought!
The Atheist exists in certainty. He knows exactly why there is no God, why Nature exists, and why there is no life after death. He knows the nature of self and of consciousness, he understands life and death and the nature of egotism. His understanding is complete and beyond doubt.
So, please, if you entertain doubts about these issues, then do not call yourself an atheist. Be genuine, and say "I am currently an agnostic but my goal is atheism." In this way, you will not molest the highest.
- A comedy of many parts -
It is always amusing to observe how the Christian deals with reason. He simply doesn't know what to do with it! He cannot reject it completely - even the dullest Christian knows that the absence of reason is the absence of sanity. But to embrace it fully is even worse! Unrestricted reason would undermine everything his happiness depends on.
Hence the Christian is the most dishonest of all creatures. He neither accepts nor rejects reason but continuously shifts his ground when confronted with each situation. One minute he thinks reason is necessary, the next irrelevant. His is the mind of a child: spontaneous and changeable, with no conscience whatsoever. And this, he tells us, is the truthful life.
The Christian cannot reject reason for he depends upon it in every aspect of his life. When he goes shopping, he uses reason. When he converses with his friends, he uses reason. As with everyone else, reason is required in all his conscious interactions with the world.
This applies no less to all his religious concerns. Reason is called upon in the adoption of a particular belief system, a particular scripture, a particular God-concept, or a particular ethical stance. In every way, Christianity is held together by reason.
Now it may be asked: does this not make Christianity rational? Not in the slightest, for the Christian uses reason only to provide himself with emotional security and a hope for the future. He does not use it to uncover truth. He reasons selectively and with great cunning, knowing deep down that happiness depends upon the dishonest use of reason.
Let us now look at specific examples of Christian thinking:
- It is said that God makes one happy. I have just experienced great happiness. Therefore God exists and I have just experienced Him.
- Jesus said he was God. Many other people say he is God and they can't all be wrong. Therefore Jesus is God.
- The Bible contains the word "God" a lot. When I read the Bible I have an uplifting experience. Therefore God is real and the Bible is His word.
- I used to be miserable with despair. But when I became a Christian my life changed to one of joy and hope. Therefore God exists and I am part of His plan.
And so it goes on. Pathetic isn't it? Yes, behind all their elaborate theologies, their ritual tears and emotional ecstacies, lie a few crude reasonings a ten-year-old child would be ashamed of.
And herein lies the comedy. For is there anything more humorous than to witness people building their lives on sand while believing it to be rock?
"The Freeman's Resolution"
William F. Denton
I will not bow to a titled knave,
Nor crouch to a lordly priest:
A martyr's torments I'd rather brave,
Than be of my manhood fleeced.
I'll bend my knee to no fancied god,
I'll fear no ghost so wan,
Erect and free I'll stand on the sod,
And act as becomes a man.
I'll pin my faith to no bigot's sleeve;
I'll swallow no griping creed;
I'll ask my Reason what to believe,
And ever her answer heed.
I'll hide no truth in a coward heart,
The world would be blest to know;
My boldest thought as it wills impart,
Nor check the mind's onward flow.
I'll love the true, I will do the right,
Ruled only by Reason's sway,
Let all do so; and the world's dark night
Will melt into rosy day.
Of Morals and Authority
The question "What is moral, and who decides?" has vexed humanity since time immemorial. Many have found an answer in submitting their will to Ultimate Authorities - I mean God, gods, and spouses etc, whose omnipotence (and often reality) go unquestioned and unchallenged. Those who believe suchlike I term theists. The atheist, however, having a greater regard for the reasoning process, cuts something of a lonely figure. The atheist knows with certainty, and for simple reasons, that there can be no greater authority than the human intellect in matters of morality and ethics. To escape this priceless knowledge requires nothing less than Houdini-like intellectual powers only possessed by theists. The average Christian, for instance, will name God as the authority for their personal morality. Yet their very belief that God exists is but a construct of their intellect. And so too is their conception of the nature of God; and so too their belief that Biblical scripture is divinely inspired; and so too their interpretation of scripture, and the morals, ethics and lifestyle which ensue from that interpretation. Indeed, the very notion that a higher authority than Man can exist, is itself a construct of the human intellect, which, in truth, elevates the intellect to its rightful position of Ultimate Authority. So the Christian defeats himself by his very thought, while remaining completely unaware that he has done so - a situation which, if it were not so tragic, would be exceedingly humorous.
The logic is simple and inescapable. It cannot be challenged by reasonable people, which is precisely why theists find the issue such a struggle. Theists desire influence over social morality, but shrink from the personal responsibility that such influence carries. Instead, they indulge in a fatuous game of metaphysical buck-passing, desperately constructing all manner of abstract and unsuspecting deities upon whom to project their "Will To Power".
One of the most important differences between the theist and the atheist is the latter's willingness to accept the reality of personal authority and responsibility. Does the atheist set himself up as the arbiter of human morality? Yes indeed! But then, so do we all. It's just that some of us possess the intellectual integrity to acknowledge the fact, and some of us do not. For the true atheist, the revelation that He is God, is a truly terrifying one, and calls for a rare degree of courage. This is why the true atheist is, Himself, a decidedly rare breed.
Exploding the Big Bang
If, when, and how the Big Bang happened is purely a matter of scientific interest, and is dangerously close to being of purely academic interest. Such knowledge has no bearing on philosophy, and on our ability to understand the fabric of reality, or who we are, and what we're doing here. Big Bang fervour is taking the place of religion, insofar as it satisfies the embarrassingly human yearning for power and mystery. In short, we don't need it.
How could knowledge of a Big Bang possibly tell us anything about a God, or what such a thing would be like? A God can be either finite or infinite. If this God is finite, then he is like us, and is therefore no God at all. But if he is infinite, that is, without limit, then God is just another name for Nature. There is nothing more to be known as far as God is concerned. Science can add nothing, and its application in such matters only serves to complicate the very simple.
Having dispensed with God, we are free to spend our time realizing what it means to be a part of Nature - the noblest of all pursuits.
Does God have Free Will?
The problem of whether or not God has free will is actually a simple one, yet as important as it is compelling. It is clear to the rational thinker that this is a black and white issue. God either does or does not possess and exhibit free will - there are no alternatives.
Given that God apparently thinks and makes decisions, we must ask the question: How do such thoughts arise? Are they caused, or do they arise spontaneously? Again, it is clear that exactly one of these must be the case. If the latter proposition is true, and God's thoughts arise spontaneously, without cause, then his actions would be truly random, having no rhyme nor reason. Such a God would be a truly terrifying prospect - and ultimately, not much of a God. If, however, thoughts are caused (which is clearly the case), then those thoughts are not truly "free" in the common sense of the term. They are necessarily predetermined, given that a thing pre-exists in its causes. This means that God's thoughts and decisions are predetermined, which implies a lack of control on God's part, and also points to the reality of a guiding force/principle beyond God's influence. In the face of this, the common perception of God as being omnipotent, omniscient, and all those other fancy "omni" words, is nonsensical. In other words, an infinite God, is impossible! There is in fact a name for this particular ultimate force/principle - CAUSALITY. Define causality as God if you will. But in doing so remember that causality is a conceptual principle and cannot be said to exist as such. Causality is just a word for the infinitely complex interdependence and interaction between things that do indeed exist. That which is responsible for existence itself cannot logically be said to exist.
Finally, one may rightly ask if the logic pertaining to God's inherent inability to possess "free will", also pertains to us humans? Again, the answer is actually quite simple. So much so in fact, that I shall leave it for you to ponder.
Advice for Christians
How to protect your Faith
1. Ensure that your concept of God is so vague that nobody can know precisely what you are talking about.
2. Pay no attention to people who try to reason with you. Know that they are mere shysters out to deceive you.
3. If doubts arise in your mind, then make the God-concept even more vague. If possible, move God beyond the reaches of thought where He'll be safe.
4. If your beliefs seem to contradict one another, simply ignore the fact. Chant to yourself "God is infinitely mysterious" two hundred or so times.
5. Learn to fully submit to God. In this way, you can cease the irritating habit of thinking, and soon attain Peace.
6. Never cease to harden your beliefs. Otherwise, reality will begin to seep into your life and you'll be in real trouble. If you are having difficulties, go to church services on a more regular basis.
7. Take time to study the sciences. By doing so, you will be better able to distort and misrepresent them.
8. Do not read the Gospels too closely as you may find anomalies. If you do find a threatening passage, ignore it. If some unease remains, then go to your local preacher. His life is dedicated to your well- being.
9. Above all, do not think for yourself. If you do, your friends will leave you and you'll be alone. God does not approve of anti-social ways.
10. Listen to your feelings. If they are happy, then God is happy - for God created us to be happy, did he not?
Note: Do not hesitate to use violence, whether against a threatening thought or an evil atheist. God thoroughly approves the use of violence to protect the faith. Amen.
The Dying Atheist
Now closed around the deepening shades of death
And life with all its glory fades away,
Ere long those lips will yield the expiring breath,
And this worn frame be given to decay.
Such is the lot of everything that lives,
From humble worm to intellectual man;
Thus fades the flower that freshening fragrance gives,
Thus all things end even as all things began.
'Tis folly to ignore the many links
Which bind all creatures in one vast embrace,
Yet human pride in righteous horror shrinks
From owning kindred with the lower race.
But as from germs doth spring all life around,
So man from nobler germs his being draws,
With all his genius - all his thoughts profound,
He yet must yield himself to Nature's laws.
Like frailest form of life that crawls the earth,
Man in his majesty must bow to fate,
And 'neath that ground which giveth all things birth,
Return at last to his primordial state.
The question is not whether man descended from the apes,
but the reason they think what they think.
The dissenter is every human being at those moments
Thought makes the whole dignity of man; therefore endeavour