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The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Some Christians may misunderstand atheism

 
Ido not believe in supernatural beings or occurrences. Furthermore, I am not an adherent of any religion. I find concepts such as global floods, reincarnation, demons and gods hard to believe. That’s right, folks, I’m an atheist. Although at first blush it might seem I am writing an irreverent confessional, my intention is simply to provide a modicum of clarification.
First and foremost, atheism is nothing more than the lack of belief in god: this includes the god of Abraham; the Hindu god Brahma; the Greek and Egyptian pantheons of old; and, for the most part, all other concepts of god(s). This is not to be confused with a positive claim of the non-existence of the aforementioned beings.
There is an express difference between believing something to be true and asserting something to be true.
So, wherein lies the “burden of proof?” Regardless of whether or not the claim concerns existence or non-existence, the onus is on the claimant to provide verifiable evidence. For instance, I may claim to see the future. If I then go on to assert a cosmic event will destroy 80 percent of all life on Earth in the year 2012, then I would be making a falsifiable claim.
Yet there is no need to wait until 2012 for peace of mind. If I could provide no verifiable evidence to support my claim, then it would be unreasonable to believe in it. We must be careful to dismiss such claims and to demand verifiable evidence from a claimant, lest we leave ourselves at the mercy of absurdity.
Various arguments have been made in support of a god, yet all contain some logical failing. Arguments from personal, religious experience are posited as evidence for god; however, one’s personal experience cannot be shared or verified. As well, there is a long list of falsified positive claims concerning the end of the world by those with supposed revealed knowledge.
Pascal’s Wager is a threat rather than an argument. The claim is one should believe in the god of a particular faith to avoid the possibility of eternal punishment. Although some may be scared into conforming, no verifiable evidence is provided. After all, dead men tell no tale. Furthermore, the claim is a false dichotomy. The claimant fails to account for thousands of other faiths.
Perhaps most interesting of all is the First Cause argument: every event has a cause and since the universe has a beginning, it must also have a cause. Typically, that cause is attributed to a god.
First, there is the familiar conundrum this cause is no more indicative of say, the Abrahamic god, than it is other creator gods.
Second, while tacitly accepting one aspect of modern cosmology, the rest is ignored as it conflicts with scripture.
As an atheist, I am often accused of being anti-god or anti-religion. I would first say I am no more against the god of Abraham than I am the god(s) of any other religion. Be it of a contemporary or extinct faith, no concept of god has ever been independently verified that hadn’t already been shown to be counterfactual. That being said, I am not against religion, per se.
In fact, I recognize the capacity for religion to inspire people to do great things such as build magnificent structures that push the boundaries of engineering and architecture or paint moving scenes of unparalleled beauty.
I do take issue with religion when it acts to stifle intellectual inquiry or incite violence. Regardless of the ultimate truths, the world would be better off without the bigotry of the Westboro Baptist Church who pickets the funerals of fallen servicemen with signs such as “God Hates Fags.”
Moreover, the world would be better off without the madness that drove a crowd of protestors in Mazar-i-Sharif to kill ten United Nations workers in response to the thoughtless burning of the Koran by Pastor Jones. Such violence is reminiscent of the Christian inquisitions throughout the better part of the second millennium.
A little doubt could do the world a lot of good.
Christopher Ramos is a graduate student in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. He can be contacted at [email protected].

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Some Christians may misunderstand atheism