Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Thought Experiment: Fundamentalist Atheism

I have a thought experiment: what would a Fundamentalist Atheist be?

Atheism is the absence of or the rejection of a belief in any deity or deities.

Fundamentalism is strict adherence to any set of basic ideas or principles.

Please note that I am not discussing “extremists.” This is not about bombing abortion clinics, jihadists, or any violent actions taken in the name of a religious belief, or for the sake of this argument, non-religious beliefs.

Theism and religion, as theism’s natural result, have no empirical proof for the belief systems and must operate on faith. Faith, by its very nature, is not based on proof and in many instances there is direct, contradictory evidence refuting beliefs based on faith. Many moderate theists smooth their cognitive dissonance by taking a relativist stance on scripture. This allows room for discussion on even central tenets of the religion without compromising the belief.

Conversely, fundamentalists ignore obvious discrepancies within their own beliefs and scriptures while having no objective, empirical proof that the supernaturalism is true. They even go so far as to deny and attack (verbally and politically) the methods in which objective reality is established; whether that is history, science, logic or philosophy. They are clearly delusional. Mainline, moderate theists will balk or shirk at that language, but they know it is truly an appropriate adjective. Many just will not say it aloud for fear of being branded “not a true Christian” or worse; realizing that if this other group that shares many of the same beliefs is wrong then what of their own?

What claim could an atheist make that is based on observable, quantifiable evidence and would fly in the face of reason? What would be "crazy?"

As defined above, it would seem at first glance that atheists could very well be fundamentalists. ”Strict adherence to any set of basic ideas or principles” is actually a loose definition. What sets it apart is the word “strict.” This connotes an inflexibility. The difference is in the level of commitment. Religious fundamentalists will not change their minds even when presented with an abundance of evidence that conflicts with their “basic ideas and principles.” After all there are still people that believe the Sun revolves around the Earth! An atheist, presented with an abundance of evidence that conflicts with their “basic ideas and principles” will be forced to change that belief. I would imagine this may occur begrudgingly, but it would occur nonetheless. After all, for many atheists this is the only barrier between believing in something and not believing in something. However, in the history of the world this has never happened. At least there is no evidence of it happening. There is not a single piece of objective, empirical evidence supporting supernaturalism, theism, Creation myth, the Flood, the divinity of Jesus, etc., ad naseum.

Even if (IF!) there is a god, it would have to be described as one that has operated in a manner similar to the current paradigm where the deity purposely hides itself and any evidence of it's existence; for whatever reason it may have. Is it completely unjustifiable to deny the existence of that deity?  What strict principle is this asserting contrary to evidence?

Lord Patton, the new head of the BBC recently stated that "It makes people think I'm peculiar and lack intellectual fibres because I don't have any doubts about my faith, but I'd be terrified to have doubts." That is a fundamentalist statement. Not a single doubt about his principle belief exists although there is no corroborative evidence to support it and, in fact, contradictory evidence of those beliefs.

I have doubts. I have doubts about everything. I question my atheism. I question whether antitheism is the correct approach as a secular individual in countering religious fundamentalism and extremism. I even question (GASP!) the Big Bang Theory, abiogenesis, and evolution. Why? Because I am not a drone. These things should be questioned along with everything else in this universe. Especially anything taken on faith. As soon as significant evidence is presented challenging something I adhere to, I would reevaluate my beliefs and worldview. It would be admittedly painful, but I would do it. Would Lord Patton? Would Pat Robertson or any number of Evangelicals? Would your local various clergy? I doubt it. (<--- pun). They do not have evidence for the initial belief in the first place and there is a multitude of historical, philosophical, logical, and scientific evidence that clearly contradicts faith on a daily basis. Yet here we are, talking about how terrifying it would be to have doubts in a world that is full of them. There is nothing strict about that.