Thursday, January 26, 2012

Faith in Doubt

So, What if I’m Wrong?

One of my finer moments in spontaneous atheist apologetics came in my early 20’s at a college campus in a friendly debate with a theist.  I was asked, “If you die and come face to face with God, what will you tell him about why you didn't believe in him?” My immediate reply:

“I’d tell him that he needs better messengers.”

Contrary to the tired theist argument, I do not have any faith in my atheism.  That is to say, I am required by the design of my worldview to doubt and question my own beliefs.  I make a genuine attempt to think about the positions I take and the beliefs I hold.  I argue with myself.  I try to look at my beliefs from different angles and give my best effort to acknowledge my biases and conceptual blind spots.  So as an atheist, I think about the possibility of a Personal God as a real entity.  I admit that this thought experiment usually occurs with a Christian God because; it is the religion of my childhood.  I am occasionally at odds with the confidence many atheists present their views with.  If I have faith in anything it is in doubt.

For most of my religious life I was a deist.  The concept of an aloof and uninterested God made perfect sense to me based on my observation of the world.  When I try to imagine the creator of the Universe occasionally looking at me with an infinite eye, I think about what it must be like to actually be loved by this being and to know that I play a role in His cosmic opus.  

Then Mr. Doubt walks in, adjusts his hipster glasses, takes a sip of his coffee and starts asking questions.  Why would this loving god throw you into an eternal torture chamber for doubting his existence?  Why should this or any god give a damn about you?  Could you really be more interesting to examine than say...a dwarf star?  (Maybe not since there have to be considerably more dwarf stars in the Universe than humans and we have “Reality TV”).  And of course the one we always go back to: Why does the observable Universe look so much like a godless one?  

This is how it happens.  Every. Time.  But the same process occurs with the things I do believe.  I read apologetics' arguments like this.  I pour over alternate arguments.  I poke holes in atheist rebuttals when I see distortions or fallacies.  I have attempted to watch Fox “News” but I keep getting mysterious nosebleeds.

I understand the point theists are trying to make when they say that atheists have a dogmatic faith in science, but this assertion is colored by their perception and projection of concepts like faith and dogma.  We are using the same words, but we mean different things (see Theory vs. Hypothesis).  I have confidence (not faith) in science because it has proven itself to be a worthy tool.  Apologists tend to give science an agency status when making this argument like "you believe whatever ‘Science’ says."  This is clearly a “God Shaped Hole” fallacy to assert that one must have devotion to some idea to compensate for a lack of belief in magic.  Of course science doesn't actually say anything.  The implementers of science say things and they don't always agree.  One can be unshakable (dogmatic) about the process of science because the method has built-in doubt.  The guys in the lab coats call it "peer review."  I say it all the time:  Science is the process we use to describe and predict aspects of reality.  That's all.  When the outcome changes, the method demands that the assessment changes.

Doubt is a virtue to the freethinker.  Why else would it be so poisonous to faith and theism in general?  

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. James 1:5-8

So maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe there is a Creator God (probably Mangar-kunjer-kunja ~ [Google him]) and I may stand before him some day and explain my atheism.  Having undeniable proof of the supernatural would not shatter my worldview.  Admitting that I am wrong only happens after I have learned something.  I am much more interested in truth.  

A note to Pascal: Even if you pick the correct god, he would know if you were full of shit.

                                                             ~        ~        ~

I've gone from Jekyll to Hyde
Man to monster
Zen to Karma
Dante to Heidegger
Still too divided to conquer
I've read the words of a man from Galilee
Temporarily abandoned reality
Now I place my faith in doubt
Intellectual alchemy.



Anonymous said...

Great post. :)

Greg West said...

Thanks for linking to the post on my page (The Poaached Egg), but the link seems to be broken. Here is the link to the original article on the original source: