silence is simple
Recent debates on Atheism have me asking: do atheists have to know a lot about religion to be able to dismiss it? Some of the discussions I’ve read go in to excrutiating detail on religion’s origins and history, the theological justifications for it, or lack thereof.
I work in IT, and firmly believe in keeping things simple, and reliable. When I see theists constructing complicated arguments for the existence of God, I have the persistent impression that they’re having to work too hard at it, like Wil. E. Coyote flailing his legs around in the hope that gravity will leave him alone!
We do have experts in the field, such as Prof. Richard Dawkins, who has spent some time studying theology and discussing it with “modern” (i.e. educated, non-dogmatic) theologists. He interviewed some for his Channel 4 documentary The Root Of All Evil? and wrote about them in his book The God Delusion. Theology is a major “humanity” field, which encompasses philosophy, sociology, epistemology, psychology and more: you can spend your whole life studying it, or your whole life arguing with theologists. Sorry: my life is too short. My “personal atheism” is far simpler, starting with the absence of belief, how the word “atheism” is the best description of that, and I take it from there.
This also helps to explain why atheists aren’t generally out there pushing their agenda: we have literally “nothing” to be evangelistic about. The current books by Sam Harris and Dawkins are a sign of something else: we would have little to say if we were just left in peace, but the way the world is going – particularly the USA – appears to be a precursor to theocracy and religious war.
Telling people “your faith is founded on nothing” is unpleasant, and should not be necessary in an ideal world. I don’t like to antagonise people that way, it feels uncomfortable, and I don’t do it to friends unless the topic comes up in discussion. But out here, on the Internet, I can be more blunt; not only does the Pope have no Clothes, people are so invested in the idea of clothes that nudity horrifies them!
Here’s an experiment I recommend for anyone interested in getting to the heart of the matter: find a quiet room, sit down, and put on John Lennon’s Imagine. Listen to the lyrics, and try to Imagine what John was imagining. Then, after the song has ended, sit in silence for a while, and listen. Your ears become more sensitive as time goes by. Is someone you know walking around outside? That computer fan is a bit noisy, isn’t it? Listen to your breathing, your heartbeat. That tune stuck in your head? Ignore it, it will go away.
The more I use the analogy of “atheism as silence”, the more apt it seems. There is music in the universe, some of it the product of religion, some created by people without reference to religion, most of it the soundtrack to the universe itself. Religion itself, to my “ears”, is unnecessary noise. We could debate the relative merits of pink noise vs. white noise vs. brown noise, but your ears will thank you for just turning the noise off.