Wednesday, April 16, 2008

About atheism, dogmatism, tolerance and spirituality

This is a follow-up to my previous blog on being an atheist in Catholic Cape Verde, to address some of the comments I have heard.

Some have suggested that atheists can be just as dogmatic as religious believers. I profoundly disagree. Here's why.

First of all, one must learn to see the difference between passion and dogmatism. An atheist may be passionate - but cannot, as I see it, be dogmatic.

To me, it is really a lot about tolerance and openness - the opposite being dogmatism. The only thing I really can't tolerate, is intolerance. One could also say that I am not dogmatically against anything - except dogmatism itself (in all it's forms - religion, nationalism, racism...). It may sound just like a twist of words, or even contradictive. But if you think twice about it, it should hopefully make some sense.

So, an atheist may be passionately convinced that there is no god, and he/she may passionately try to convince others. Even to a point when it might become annoying. At times, I get pretty agitated myself about this subject, and I am sure that one or two of my friends have found my efforts rather tiresome. BUT – and this is crucial – an atheist would never (unless he is mentally insane) use violence or even kill to convince others. He would use words and arguments and reason, not force or weapons or explosives tied to himself. Moreover, if you presented new real evidence, for, lets say gods existence, or a true religious miracle such as a virgin giving birth or so, an atheist would have to listen and consider, and eventually challenge his own conviction. With (relative) ease.

Dogmatic religious believers, on the other hand, whether Jews, Christians or Muslims, will not stop at anything to have their way. They will use oppression, force, violence, even death, even suicide for Christ’s sake (excuse the expression) to make others believe in their particular god. And why? Just because someone brainwashed them with a bunch of strange stories when they were kids, and because those same stories are scribbled down in an old book. Without a shred of real evidence. Moreover, dogmatic believers will never, ever, change their mind on their beliefs, regardless any evidence, regardless reason, regardless any argument. In fact, they even consider this rigidity a good thing – it’s called “true faith”.

And that's a HUGE difference.

Some have challenged this by pointing out that Hitler and Stalin were atheists. At a first glance, this might appear convincing. I don’t think it is convincing in any way. First of all, it is actually questionable if Hitler really was an atheist, some evidence actually suggest that he hade firm Catholic beliefs. But even if he was an atheist, it is actually irrelevant. Because the fact of the matter is that he did not do what he did to impose atheism! He did not try to force people to abandon their Christian beliefs. He did not kill people with the objective to convince them that there is no god. On the contrary! He actually USED the old religious conflict between Christians and Jews to help his political cause – which was to exterminate the Jewish people (for ever and ever doomed for “killing Jesus Christ”) for whatever OTHER twisted reasons he had. Without religion fueling the fire and the hatred, he would never have been so “successful” as he was in this regard.

Some also wonder if I don't miss spirituality in my life, assuming that religion and spirituality is the same thing. Well, in my mind, it's not.

I actually consider myself a spiritual atheist in some sense (which does not mean that I think that there is such a thing as an eternal “soul” or the like). There is a genius modern philosopher called Ken Wilber, who I have learned a lot from when it comes to spiritualism. His book “A brief history of everything” is nothing but mind-blowing. For those of you who are interested, check out his website:


Insurance Jobs said...

"Human life can best be described as a series of coincidental events which in retrospect might appear to be planned."

These coincidental events had to originate from some other coincidental event before that, and something else before that and so on and so on. It sounds infinite and really can never be proven by science. I'm not religious at all but your argument does not hold water.

Ulf Björnholm Ottosson said...

Why not?

If there is a Creator just because nothing can be created by itself, who/what created the Creator?

Your argument sounds pretty religious, even if you claim that you are not.

If you are not religious and don't believe in science, then what do you believe in?

Insurance Jobs said...

Your "religion" is “coincidence” and you use science as your "holy"scripture. You are doing the same thing the so called religious people are doing. The truth is you nor they have any idea what is really out there. they grasp the bible you the flask. Both in the end do not prove anything. I'm not religious at all, There is a huge difference btwn organized religion/science and knowing that your mind will never grasp the "Beginning"

Ulf Björnholm Ottosson said...

Hello again Mr Insurance.

So you really don't see the difference between science and "holy scripture"?

Let me remind you: science is evidence-based. It is based on tryal and error, on theories that can be tested and proved - as well as disproved. It is constantly scrutinised and checked by some of the best minds of humanity. Old theories are refined and improved. Science evolves and gives a better and better description of reality as evidence constantly grows. New evidence will give new answers.

Religion on the other hand is based on "faith" - the only source being some ancient scribblings deriving from the fantasies and biased interpretations of old men (never women) living some thousands of years ago.

If you want to believe that these methods of describing reality are equally valid - be my guest.

Sure - nobody has the answer to everything (in fact, this makes life a whole lot more interesting). The point is however that science comes so much closer than any other method.

In fact, scientists are the first to admit that science does not answer everything. They are happy to immediately question or even disregard any theory in the light of new evidence. Religious fundamentalists, however, will never ever question their "faith" - no matter the evidence.

So of course there is a difference. A MAJOR difference.