New Statesman – Faith No More

This is good. Various public figures who have stated they are atheists were asked why they do not believe in gods.

For example, here’s Sam Harris, Neuroscientist:

The most common impediment to clear thinking that a non-believer must confront is the idea that the burden of proof can be fairly placed on his shoulders: “How do you know there is no God? Can you prove it? You atheists are just as dogmatic as the fundamentalists you criticise.” This is nonsense: even the devout tacitly reject thousands of gods, along with the cherished doctrines of every religion but their own. Every Christian can confidently judge the God of Zoroaster to be a creature of fiction, without first scouring the universe for evidence of his absence. Absence of evidence is all one ever needs to banish false knowledge. And bad evidence, proffered in a swoon of wishful thinking, is just as damning.

…and there’s lots more like that. Some are clear, some are fervent, some are funny. It’s like a warm bath of reassurance.

Living here in California, I am exposed to quite a lot of new age stuff. I don’t move in those circles, but it is everywhere. A lot of it seems to be very normalized – astrology in particular seems to be accepted and treated as true by people my age who were raised here. What’s funny is that many of the believers in that kind of thing will dismiss mainstream religion while embracing an equally fantastical belief system.

One other aspect of Christianity in particular, as being the dominant supernatural belief system in the US, is the belief that Christianity should be the default, the starting point for belief. Any other system is edging it out, science is wearing it down, other religions are pushing it aside, but what should be there under it all is Christianity.

In terms of raw numbers this perspective could be said to be true, but I think that comes from being dominant for so long.

It reminds me of some forms of conservatism. In the UK in recent years, there was a sense of, “Well, we tried Labour, and it failed, so let’s go back to Tory. We should never have left.” It was as if the default government should be Tory, and anything else is an aberration.

This ties into “The God Of The Gaps”, which is when supernatural forces are called into play to explain anything that science can’t. As science explains more and more, the Gaps that God occupies get smaller and smaller.

But at the same time science discovers more and more that can’t be explained yet. Of course, a theist would say that the more science can’t explain, the more evidence there is for a god. The bigger the gap, the more need for a god.

But science doesn’t have to start with a god and then chip away at it. Science can start with a completely blank page, filling it in as it goes, and discovering that the edges of the page actually stretch off into the distance.

No need for a default, for tradition, for how things have been for centuries – only for what is right.