Thursday, April 12, 2007

Why I am uncomfortable with atheism

So I was having a conversation with a science orientated friend about atheism and it occurred to me that while many people in the sciences will identify themselves as atheists, I will not, and am quite uncomfortable with the whole concept for several reasons.
First let me point out, I do dislike organized religion. It certainly has been the root of a lot of evil and irrationality both past and present. And now more than ever we see how it can hinder the progress of civilization. But that's not to say I don't believe in some underlying force. I have always wondered at the efficiency of the human body and just how many things can go potentially wrong yet don't. I feel a sense of awe when I see a large natural feature (a canyon or wide river or the rain forest of Puerto Rico, the astonishing beauty of the desert landscape of Aruba in the middle of the lush Caribbean ocean) and think of all the things that had to happen to "make it so". People can legitimately argue for the sheer randomness of it all. But to me, personally it seems like randomness alone can't explain everything. This is not a rational belief, I know, but despite appearances, I can be far from a rational person, and in fact am considered quite an emotional high strung bundle of nerves by those who know me best (esp my family:)
It is cocksure arrogance to assume that we know everything through science. Things change from time to time. I am wiling to believe that there are things in this world that can't always be explained away scientifically.
Here is my biggest problem with atheists and why they can make me uncomfortable from time to time. The existence of God is something that can never be proven or disproved and many people find faith in God a simple and comforting truth. As long as nobody is attempting to impose their beliefs on others I have no problem with people believing this. However I do have a problem with blind zealotry (personally I believe the difference between a fundamentalist Christian in this country and a fundamentalist Muslim in Saudia Arabia are very minute) and sometimes atheists come across to me as zealots. See the guy who wanted to have the word "God" removed from the Pledge of Allegiance- that was a bit much, to say the least.
It also hurts scientific integrity in the eyes of the general populace to be swept up into the stereotype that we are all "godless" maniacs. There are many, many mainstream folk who are not stupid and not THAT ignorant who are religious and often this misconception leads to the growth of dangerous pseudoscience (once again I was astonished to see how the religious right and the fringe left came together to attack Gardasil, even if they both "claim" to have different reasons). So I would much like to hear other perspectives on this: from those who have managed somehow to reconcile their faith with science, and those who are explicitly atheistic


neuralgourmet said...

IMHO you're overgeneralizing. An atheist is simply someone who does not believe in god(s). Beyond belief or disbelief in deities there are no discernible differences between atheists and theists. Yes, there are really vile obnoixious atheists just as there are vile obnoxious theists. But they are not representative of atheists and a disbelief in god(s) can not be used to justify any behavior. You've just got to take us one at a time.

Also, an atheist can not be a fundamentalist (atheist fundamentalists has become a popular term of late and I presume you're using the term zealot in a similar vein). A fundamentalist is someone who has a strict, nee fundamental, interpretation of their beliefs. So you can have a religious fundamentalist. However an atheist has nothing to believe in, at least in respect to god(s), therefore you can not have a fundamentalist interpretation of something that isn't there.

sue said...

Yes, perhaps. My feelings may have more to do with my Dad's atheist beliefs. He can be very abrasive with his beliefs and tends to belittle those who don't agree with him. I doubt I have had a converation about religion with him in 20 years. I doubt he even realizes that I leave open the possibility of God. But its very true that I am uncomfortable with atheists and I never understood why until I wrote this.