The Belief Wars

By William J. Furney
The Bali Times

If there’s one thing atheists and creationists agree on – possibly the only thing they can agree on – it is that they don’t much like each other. They may hold a professional respect for those on the other side, but they loathe their viewpoints on existence.

So virulent is this repugnance that it reduces otherwise ostensibly intelligent folk into child-like babbling and schoolyard taunting.

Such was the case with the publication of an article by conservative creationist Charlotte Allen in the Los Angeles Times and carried by this newspaper in its edition last week. Titled Atheists: No God, No Reason – Just Anger, it portrayed atheists as “crashing bores” that she can’t stand and are “[fixated] with the fine points of Christianity.”

Naturally she was blasted by the non-believers. Among hundreds of responses to the LA Times piece were those that said: “It’s about time we atheists stood up against having to pretend that religion is an ‘okay and good’ thing to have. If one is interested, it isn’t too hard to see the illogic behind ‘believing.’ But it is easier to ‘obey and follow’ than to ‘think and reason.’” “She should drop the pretence that the objectionable part of our character is our lack of excitement. What really annoys Allen is that in our books, blogs and media appearances, we challenge religious preconceptions.” “Find us boring? We find religion silly: An invisible dude in the sky hears the thoughts of billions of people at the same time…”

But hold onto your evolutionary seat. Stirrer-upper-in-chief Richard Dawkins is about to unleash a fresh barrage of his “we are entirely alone” theory with the publication in September of The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution. A follow-on from his highly contentious The God Delusion, it will, according to the pre-release description, take “on creationists, including followers of ‘Intelligent Design’ and all those who question the fact of evolution through natural selection.”

So from Dawkins’ cast-iron perspective, there’s not much new to come with the new book. The honourable science professor is derided by creationists for his adherence to scientific fact to argue his point that there is no god, no afterlife, nothing other than what people alive now are experiencing. All that there is, is what you can see and will forever be. They say spirituality cannot be based on facts as we know them; that you cannot tabulate human existence and what it is. I agree.

The God Delusion is a fascinating book, a witty and absorbing read. When I penned a piece about it last year, readers wrote in ridiculing the book, and it’s easy to see why. Dawkins and his fellow-thought brethren love to dice up established world religions and their ancient texts, like the Bible, which he roundly derides. They say that to follow such creeds does not breed cognizant opinions, that adherents are merely feeble sheep following the flock. But this brow-beating foray is a sideshow, I think.

Fervent atheists do not take into account personal feelings on spirituality or human intelligence. If humankind has evolved to the point that it is at now, with man’s ability to ponder and connect with something ethereal, what is the Darwinian reasoning for that? There is no discernable procedure that can probe a human brain and alight upon the “mind” or “spirit.” There is no knowing how human consciousness arises from a tightly compacted network of billions of neurons. It would appear that we are more than the sum of our many parts.

It is, of course, all so perplexing, and no one has any answers. Everything is pure conjecture. Can we conjure up an equation to explain ourselves? Can we add up the facts to arrive at an answer? Of course not. All we can do is posit.

I am not delving into nitpicking or name-calling, for the furtherance of this discourse is ill-served by such derision; but from my personal, emerging beliefs, there is infinitely more to existence than what can be chalked down to scientific fact.

The Balinese have a belief in the seen and the unseen – this world and beyond – and I go along with that. It’s eminently foolhardy to solely base your life on what can purportedly be explained by a thesis, or the physical current-reality before your eyes.

Meanwhile, enlightened atheists, it seems, are overcoming their public-persecution complex and speaking out loud and proud – see their ads plastered on London buses earlier this year: THERE’S PROBABLY NO GOD. NOW STOP WORRYING AND ENJOY YOUR LIFE.

But as a reader commented on an article on atheism that appeared in the Belief section of the Guardian newspaper in Britain, “It strikes me that the final triumph of reductionist science is to try to convince everyone that they don’t exist.”

Now there’s a conundrum.

Filed under: Arts & Entertainment

Comments are closed.