It's time to grow up and start seeing the world the way it really is and not the way we want it to be.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Death and Truth






I am not a hard scientist.  My background is in literature and philosophy.  But I am not an academic pontificating from an Ivory Tower with no experience in the real world outside of a university campus.  Everything I say is backed up by years of living out my beliefs on the street where it counts.  If a belief system fails to produce when applied to our lives then it is the system that is at fault and needs revision.  Life is the ultimate test of any theory.


My atheism doesn't come from any discussion in a cloistered environment or from reading books on the subject, although I have done more than my share of each.  My atheism comes from knowledge of and an attempt to live out theism in my life.  I spent 50 years of my life struggling to make theism work only to find, at every turn, the belief system did not answer any problems or offer any solutions but rather made my life more miserable and me a far worse person than I would have been without it.


Atheism answered all the questions and made good on all the promises that theism failed to answer or to keep.  Not just on paper, but in my life.  I know from personal experience that other people would be far better off if they rejected the primitive belief in God and accepted their own mortality.  When I admitted to myself that I was not an immortal being, that I would one day die and that with my death would come the cessation of my existence, I found the need for God to exist dropped from my eyes like a blindfold and I saw the world as it really was for the first time.


So much for my personal testimony.  I'll get more into my experiences later as they are germane to my atheism.  For now this brief introduction will have to suffice.


Yesterday's letter dealt with death and 'the lack of alternatives.'  My reasoning was based solely on the evidence and I made truth statements, mainly that death, decomposition and the cessation of existence were obvious facts and that theism was a turning away from the truth and the acceptance of a lie. 


The unpopularity of 'truth' talk comes from the theistic misuse of the word.  This situation is exacerbated by the cowardice of contemporary philosophy and the hard sciences in the academic world.  The academic population is only a subset of all peoples and classes.  Their motivation is career advancement and, as such, they are loath to make truth statements that may lead to ridicule from their peers.  So both theist and atheist define truth in the limited sense of being 'absolute certainty.'  The application of the twin notions of infinity and eternity extend the probability of an event occurring or a being existing outwards and inwards, forwards and backwards to the point that nothing can be spoken of with absolute certainty about anything.   Since God is defined as an infinite and eternal being he is the only one who can make comment on his own existence or lack thereof, or so the theist argument goes.  If I make the truth statement 'God does not exist' the counter-argument is I would have to have the attributes of God in order to know with absolute certainty that he doesn't exist.  Because of this conundrum, we have an extended argument over the existence of God that would seem to have no possible resolution.


What we have are two different definitions of truth.  The truth that is 'out there,' objective truths based on observation, and the truth that is 'inside me,' the interaction between objective truths and myself.  The problem is the latter should be referred to as my beliefs and the word truth should be reserved for the former.


Belief differs from truth. Belief is fixed in time and space.  Everyone knows this.  There is the conversion moment in Christianity where one believes and is saved.  One moment you didn't believe, the next you did.  Belief is an on/off switch, either you believe or you don't.  There is no middle ground.  Doubt, the attempts of the rational mind to regain control over one's beliefs, is looked upon as a disease to be cured, not a habit of mind to be cultivated.  Belief is the cessation of the search for the truth and the substitution of a false sense of certainty that has no referent in the real world.


Truth is a dimmer switch taking you from the darkness of primitive superstitions and gradually illuminating the world around you.  Truth is reliable information that can be used as the foundation for further truths yet to be learned.  Truth is an ever-elusive goal that carries us forward into the future.  Belief freezes us at one time and refuses the accumulation of further knowledge.  Truth leads to freedom, belief to stagnation and insanity.


Death is the truth not because I need it to be true. 


The belief in human immortality is created and sustained by the human need to deny death and live forever.  The motivation for people to believe they are immortal is so strong all religion has to do is tell one lie and they have millions of people turning their back on the truth and willingly giving up their freedom and minds.


You have on one side a truth that is harsh and uncompromising and unpleasant to the point that its acceptance makes you a social pariah in a country full of believers...


...And on the other side a belief that is deeply and intensely motivated not just by the promise of immortality but the social acceptance of your surrounding culture...


...then how could you impugn a selfish motive on the former and applaud the latter?


That is what is happening in our country. 


An atheist gives up everything for the sake of the truth.


Christians give up nothing and are, in fact, highly rewarded for their willingness to believe a lie.


Yet we are the enemy, the antichrist, and the monster.


We are the ones they will come for in the night.



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Suggested reading:

  • A History of the End of the World by Jonathan Kirsch
  • American Colossuss: The Triumph of Capitalism 1865 - 1900 by H. W. Brands
  • American Colossuss: The Triumph of Capitalism 1865 - 1900 by H. W. Brands
  • Life After Death by Alan Segal
  • Radicals for Capitalism by Brian Doherty
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  • The Science of Evil by Simon Baron-Cohen
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  • Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt
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I am from West Virginia. Born in New Martinsville to a minister's family. Traveled around West Virginia and Southern Ohio growing up. The only stability I got was from my mother's side of the family in Boone County. My Great Grandfather on my father's side was preaching in Madison during the Mine Wars. He ran for the state legislature on a pro-union ticket and won only to have the coal companies tie the results up in court so he ended serving only one day out of this term. My Grandfather on my mother's side stood with the miner's at Blair Mountain and died of Black Lung when I was still in my teens. I was raised a Conservative Christian...not a Fundamentalist. Strict separation of church and state based on the understanding that what makes for a good politician is pretty much the opposite of what makes a good Christian. I'm politically radical in that I believe in one man/one vote and the only way to have political equality is to have economic equality. I'm an atheist because once I accepted the fact of my own mortality I found no need for belief in God.