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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

What do I believe?

Am I an atheist? Well, it all depends on how one describes "atheist"? If one means by that someone simply who is not a theist, then yes I am. But people use "athiest" in different ways. One may say that an atheist is someone who does not believe in God. But then what does one mean by "God"? Define God and I can tell you if I believe in that. If by "God" you mean a sort of being, that is supernatural, and created the universe, then no. But if by "God" you were to say "a cause which is the reason for all that exists" then certainly, we have the Laws of Nature. I am a determinist, I believe that everything that exists is the consequence of the material universe and the natural laws that bring the universe to that order. But my problem with the "God" in such a context is that "God" is completely unnecessary. For me, the word "God" is superfluos in every way, I prefer not to use that word at all.

As I have said that I have been influenced by Spinoza. My beliefs are best closely identified with Einstein, Sagan, Hawking, and Spinoza. I do believe that the universe is arranged in a rational order. I also think that the natural laws are in harmony with one another, they work together to create the material universe that we have. However, there is nothing supernatural about this whatsoever. This is just how the universe is. I do not know why, but this is something that I can observe.

I never called myself an "atheist" because as I said it depends on how one chooses to define such a term. I also realized that most atheists do not agree with me on what I just wrote above. They think that the universe is just one big random chaotic accident.

I do not believe that there is any set goal or purpose in the universe. We can be alive at one moment and dead another. Our existence is completely meaningless. There is no meaning in life. However, this does not mean that the universe operates on with disorder and chaos. I come from a mathematical background and so I am impressed with how the natural laws are described mathematically. The outcome of the universe is based on the equations which describe these laws, there is nothing disorderly about that. Take the theory of evolution. I have noticed that many atheists make the mistake of thinking of the theory of evolution as saying that life developed by random accidents. No, that is missing the entire point! Evolution is anything but random. Evolution works by the principle of natural selection, natural selection is a mathematical optimization algorithm. It is not at all random and chaotic, if it was, evolution would not work, it works precisely because it is anything but that. Yes, evolution is a meaningless process with no goal to it, but nonetheless it is a mathematical process.

So that is what I belief. I do think if one closely studies the universe, he will come to realize that there is a rational construct that is revealed in it. However, at the same time, there is no purpose to the universe. It is neither good, nor bad, it just is. There is no goal that it has, and there is no goal that humanity has. As I said I do not call myself an atheist, but I do call myself a "nihilist".

Nihilism is essentially the logical conclusion from atheism. Atheism comes about when one has seriously thought about religion. A rational thinker will soon realize that religion has to be false. This is when he will become an atheist. A nihilist is someone who keeps on thinking about his life and its purpose without the use of religion. If the person stays rational he will eventually come to the realization that our life is without any purpose whatsoever. And value does not really exist, it exists only in our heads. We value something not because there is an objective existence for value but because our minds care for one thing over another. The same with morals. There are no morals (in an objective sense) whatsover. Nihilism is the ultimate liberation of the human mind.

Since nihilism best explains my way of thinking, I rather describe myself a "nihilist" than an "atheist". But there is another word I really like that suites me very well and that is "skeptic". A skeptic is one who comes to believe something provided there is a rational argument for it or it can be observed empirically. I try to form all of my beliefs using this approach, so I am a skeptic.

In fact, I rebuke atheists who are proud to be atheists. There is nothing to be proud of. Understand what you are saying. When you say you are proud to be an atheist you are essentially saying that you are proud that you are not a person who believes in talking snakes, giant arks, and burning bushes. This is not a big intellectual accomplishment. Atheism by itself is quite pointless. Instead, what we need to encourage is skepticism. I have heard of atheists who beleive in afterlife (not heaven or hell but reincarnation). I heard of atheists who believe in the paranormal, or ghosts. I heard of atheists who believe in astrology. This is precisely why I say that atheism is not a big accomplishment. It is a far greater accomplishment to have a population of skeptical people. People who form their ideas rationally and scientifically. One can be rational with regard to Judaism but a failed skeptic with regard to telekineses. So if you want to call me something other than a "nihilist" you can call me a "skeptic" because that word fits my description really well.

It is important for people to apply skepticism outside religion. We should be skeptical when someone tries to sell us a Prius car. We should be skeptical when someone tries to sell us organic food and claims that it is better for us. We should be skeptical when we are told that the ancient form of acupuncture is for realising the magical chi inside your body. There are plently of things to be skeptical about. Instead of teaching our kids about atheism, which is unnecessary. We should turn our children into natural skeptics. Being able to think skeptically and critically is what is important, atheism will come naturally if one developes these skills.

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