The Freedom of Reason
October 27, 2012 1 Comment
A few weeks back I told a story about losing my faith and how I came to terms with it. What I didn’t really discuss is how freeing and more beautiful the world is. I mentioned it, but there really is an immense amount of freedom in using logic and reason. Not that people of faith are incapable of using logic and reason, but if you are capable of applying logic and reason to the universe and at least attempt to understand how it all works, everything becomes more beautiful and precious.
All religion seems to trivialize life, down to magical events conjured by a mystical deity. Once the lens of religion is removed from a persons thinking, it is very hard to put it back. I truly don’t know how to describe how it feels to look at things skeptically. I am in no way a scientist. I have a degree in political science but that I no way makes me qualified to speak on anything scientific. I don’t claim to know how the universe works but I certainly try my best to understand what makes everything “tick”. That is the main difference between science and religion. Most people of faith claim that they have the answer. The answer from people of faith always inevitably is “well I will just leave that up to God” or “God only knows, who am I to question?” “Science claims they have all the answers but they don’t only God knows” As a person of logic and reason there really isn’t anything more frustrating than answers like that.
“Science is more then a body of knowledge, it’s a way of thinking. It’s a way of skeptically interrogating the universe.” -Carl Sagan
Science doesn’t pretend to know the answer to everything. Atheists don’t pretend to know that they have the answers either. To be clear I am not saying all scientists are Atheists and I am not saying all atheists understand and apply logic and reason to there arguments. What I am saying is that if you are a true Atheist or a true person of science then your whole way of thinking is the opposite, of knowing the answers . To be a person of science or to be an atheist it is a life of constant questioning and realizations that nothing is absolute. It’s a life of constant learning and discovery, and actually wanting to know new things instead of settling on Iron Age fairy tales. I admit that spiritual fulfillment can be found in learning and in science, but knowing the real world as it actually is, is remarkable and the only way to truly understand that, is looking at things skeptically and again through the lens of science and reason.
I think that the most difficult part for anyone to understand, who isn’t an atheist or a person of science is the spiritual fulfillment. As I have already said that fulfillment comes from knowing or trying to know how everything actually works. That there might not be a reason for things to be happening, that all of the incredible and complex events occurring around us are just simply happening, in spite of a higher power existing not because of the existence of a higher power. The most incredible quote I have heard that describes how a person becomes an atheist or a person of science is from Phil Plait. “Teach a man to reason, and he’ll think for a lifetime.” That quote highlights the fact that, you can tell people how the universe works, or something about how the universe works but if they aren’t willing to accept it then all you are giving them is a piece of information. If you teach a person how to look at the universe and give them a new perspective then maybe, just maybe you will change there outlook on everything, and then they will want to learn how the universe works.
When I spoke about losing my faith, I didn’t discuss how I became an atheist. Now just because you are non-believer or a person who doesn’t believe in organized religion, that doesn’t mean that you are an atheist or a person who is searching to understand how the universe works. There are many people who consider themselves non-believers, who still believe that the universe was created by a deity of some sort and “don’t take stock in science either”. For a while I was lost searching for that missing spiritual fulfillment. I dabbled in other religions, and when I say dabble, I used Wikipedia to look up the tenants of different faiths, and for a week I was that religion. I tried, Hinduism, Humanism, Secular Humanism, and of course the other major religions Judaism and Islamic. Nothing stuck, nothing helped and nothing was believable. I finally found Agnosticism, and for a long time it was what I believed. For those who don’t know what Agnosticism’s is, it is the rejection of all organized religion and the acceptance of the explanations of science to the creation of everything around us. The key difference though between agnosticism and atheism is the belief that something had to start it all. It wasn’t until I read a quote in a book by Carl Sagan, when something finally clicked in my head.
“For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.” -Carl Sagan
That really started me on the track of atheism. Just because I was reassured or satisfied by thinking or hoping that something had to create or start the ball rolling on this universe, I was just lying to myself. It is an extremely horrifying prospect, that there is nothing out there, and that we are just a result of random acts that could have yielded completely different results with even just so much as the smallest change. Once you address that fear and accept it, there is a whole new level of freedom. It’s a whole new way of looking at the scale of the universe.
It took me a while to get to the point of this post. We are living in an extremely frustrating time. At times it seems that we are moving backwards. In this country alone there has always been and still is a strong sense of anti-intellectualism. A sense that you are almost looked down upon for being intellectual or even educated. Gallup took a poll on Darwin’s 200th birthday and they concluded that only 36 percent of American’s believe in the theory of evolution. That means 64% of this country believes that a God created this world and everything in it. We have senators and congressmen who think that in cases of legitimate rape the body is capable of taking precautions to prevent pregnancy. Just this week a congressman said that he doesn’t believe in abortion under any circumstances including rape, which in turn makes that a gift from god. There is a push again to include intelligent design in BIOLOGY text books. We have a presidential candidate who is a Mormon, which concisely means, that he believes that heaven is planet called Kolob where Joseph Smith, God, and Jesus will be waiting to greet all who believe. If that wasn’t bad enough Paul Ryan is a die-hard catholic who could not be happier if his religious values were included into American laws. When I say there is freedom in reason, I mean, that it allows you to take a step back and look around and recognize the problems with this world. That the problems with this world can be traced back to the most simple and controversial of all truths
“God is not great, and Religion Poisons everything” – Christopher Hitchens
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