Saturday, June 26, 2010

How to Lose Your Religion in 10 Steps

Atheists face a bit of a dilemma. Many of us wouldn't be so blunt about it, especially not to a believer's face, but it's inescapable: if atheism is true then most people in the world, including some very smart and rational people, believe in ridiculous and unsubstantiated ancient myths and fairy tales invented at a time when people thought thunder happened because the sky was mad at them. So why do so many smart and rational people believe something that should be so completely and obviously wrong?

A lot could be written about that topic. In a nutshell, though, I think it comes down to the defences religion has that keeps people from seriously questioning it, from treating it like they treat any other idea. These defences could be part of the religion itself (e.g. "blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed") or they could be from our own biases (e.g. us being more likely to accept evidence for something we already believe).

So I was thinking: if atheism really is the rational choice, how could a rational and intellectually honest person lose their religion?

It's a bit tongue-in-cheek, and definitely in a very rough form, but I've come up with some steps for doing just that. I hope to make a series of this and link to each point as I write about it, so consider this a table of contents:

1. Learn What Atheism Is
2. Learn What Religion Is
3. Lose Your Faith
4. Think About How You Think
5. Realize That Your Religion Isn't Special
6. Learn What Your Religion Actually Says
7. Examine the Real World Claims of Your Religion
8. Compare and Contrast: A Theistic World and an Atheistic World
9. Read Your Religion's Apologetics (and Why They're Mistaken)
10. Learn More About Atheism

Welcome -or- Why the Internet Needs Another Atheist Blogger

"I admit that reason is a small and feeble flame, a flickering torch by stumblers carried in the star-less night, — blown and flared by passion’s storm, — and yet, it is the only light. Extinguish that, and nought remains."
- Robert Green Ingersoll

About 11,400,000

At the time of writing that's the number of hits Google has for 'atheist blog'. So why am I starting blog #11,400,001?

Reality is important to me but in most of the world, and certainly for most of history, reality has taken a backseat to superstition. If I can carry a torch for reason, no matter how small and feeble the flame, and how often I stumble, it's something I think worth doing.

At its heart religion is a statement about the nature of reality, a statement which I think is in err. But since its inception religion has filled a niche in human culture, providing us the framework we used in our search for meaning, our morality, our understanding of the world. Among other things. I'm not an apologist for religion but I don't think it's all useless. So like it says in the title of this blog I want to separate the wheat from the chaff. Buried among the superstition, misogyny, and other useless (at best) chaff of the world's religions, I believe some wheat can be found.

I also want to do what I can to add a little meaning to our existence. When you talk about "the meaning of life" the popular conception of it is as something you look for. In a universe made by a god who put us here for a reason maybe that makes sense. But without any god to make some meaning of life for us to search for, I think it makes sense that we need to make our own. There's plenty of raw material to come up with your own meaning; the universe is an amazing place if you take the time to look.

But what will atheist blog #11,400,001 be, aside from a place where I answer my own rhetorical questions? I guess I'll find out once I write it. For now, I think of it as a place where I can let my thoughts out to play. Once they stop bouncing around in my head and I have to put them one after the other on a page who knows what they'll do or say?

So welcome to my little corner of the Internet. Get a cup of tea and stay a while.