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Stop Worrying

I subscribe to an email newsletter from the Richard Dawkins Foundation. If you don’t know, the RDF is an organisation, headed by well know evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, which promotes science, rationality, atheism and humanism. One of the more prominent activities atheists have engaged in recently in Britain is the “probably no god” campaign which encourages people to stop worrying about the consequences of the possible existence of a god.

The slogan appearing in the advertising on buses this time is: “There’s probably no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life”. Its a good slogan because its honest and direct, it offers practical advice which everyone can use, and its just a little bit different.

How many advertising campaigns make a claim which includes the word “probably”? That’s real honesty! Can you imagine a church recruitment campaign starting with the line “our god probably exists and we might have the correct interpretation of his wishes”, or a product advertisement starting with “our new product is probably quite good so you should consider the possibility of buying it”. Most advertising is dishonest. I usually refer to PR and advertising people as “professional liars” because that’s usually what they are. But it seems to me the atheist advertisement is really in the spirit of honesty, skepticism and uncertainty that true atheism demands.

So what is this “true atheism” I refer to? Well, many people would say that atheists are as bad as believers because they are certain there is no god and that is something we cannot be certain about (the fact that many believers seem certain there is a god seems to be OK to them). But the atheists I know readily admit we can’t be 100% certain about the existence or non-existence of a god. To many people they would be agnostics because they are uncertain about god’s existence, but I don’t think that’s true.

Atheism is defined as the theory or belief that God does not exist. Agnosticism is defined as belief that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena; a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God. If I had examined the evidence and concluded that the likelihood that god exists is practically zero and therefore formulated the theory that he doesn’t I would call myself an atheist. And that’s what all the atheists I know believe. There is always doubt, but the current theory, based on extensive evidence, is that a god doesn’t exist.

But what about the argument that, even if there just a tiny chance a god exists its best to act as if he does just to cover that possibility. Well does that mean we should believe the steady state theory instead of the big bang just in case its true? Why do religious theories demand special treatment? Why is the level of evidence required for them so much less than other theories? Well I can tell you why. Its because there is almost no evidence supporting religious theories so without special treatment they would disappear.

The atheist slogan implies that people worry about the existence of god. Is that true? Well anecdotally it seems to me that it is. I know many people who prefer to believe just so that they are covered if god turns out to be true. They seem to think that if they pretend to be true believers – even when they have genuine doubt – that will somehow be accepted by their god and they will be accepted into heaven or whatever other myth is attached to their belief system.

This is silly, of course. If there is a god and if he has any interest in what people think then he will easily see through any attempt at subterfuge. It seems to me that he would have more respect for people whose actions follow what they genuinely believe instead of those who live a false life.

But what about the Bible? Doesn’t it insist that we should worship god? Well yes, but there’s one thing I know with virtual certainty: if there is a god his description in the Bible has no bearing whatsoever on what he’s really like. Not only is the Bible irrelevant in studying the characteristics of god but its one of the worst books you could take notice of because it describes a god of a type which is highly unlikely to exist.

I mean, can you imagine a god so powerful that he created the whole universe but being so jealous, illogical, and inconsistent as the one described in the Bible? And can you imagine a god who really cares about the minutiae of our lives like he does? It doesn’t make any sense to me. If there is a god we would be far better off forgetting about all the current religions and doing a real investigation into his characteristics.

Actually, I’ve got a better idea. Just take the advice of the atheist campaign: There’s probably no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life!

  1. January 15, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    Amen :-)

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