Tuesday, December 11, 2012

What They Said: In God We Trust

He hoped and prayed that there wasn't an afterlife. Then he realized there was a contradiction involved here and merely hoped that there wasn't an afterlife.
- Douglas Adams Life, the Universe and Everything

By: William G. Muir
In the above quote, everyman and one of only two humans left remaining in all the universe, Arthur Dent, is about to bowl a Cricket ball to a Krikkit robot. While he is winding up for the pitch he realizes the ball in his hand is actually a Nova Bomb that will destroy the very universe if the killer robot hits it. While hoping that he is as bad of a bowler as he can remember, the above thought runs through his mind. 

The quote is an example of a contradiction, hoping and praying that there is not an afterlife. For his pray to be answered there would have to be a god, and since this is implying that god is the Christian God and therefore there would have to be an afterlife. But that is not the reason I chose this particular quote. 

I chose this quote because like myself, Douglas Adams was an Atheist. Were as Adams was a Radical Atheist (a term he used to emphasis how convinced he was that their was no God) I call myself an Agnostic Atheist. I don't believe in any of the god(s)/goddess(es) that are currently or have previously been worshiped by humans. But I am opened to the possibility that there might be something out there. But before I could believe in any high power (excluding the laws of the universe) they would need to be scientifically proven to exist. 

But that is not were I want to go with this. I chose this quote today because it brings to mind of all those little words and phrases that we say everyday and probably do not even know that we were saying them. They have become so deeply woven into our culture that we don't even think about them, they just automatically come out of our mouths whenever we are reacting to certain situations.   
Many of these phrases have religious connotations. Such as bless you, God bless you, holy crap, Jesus Christ, God damn it, etc. I will admit that I have used these phrases many time in my life. But I didn't mean anything by them, at least nothing religious. These phrases have become so much part of our culture that they no longer have any real religious meaning to them. To the average person on the street, be they Theist or Atheist, these are just things we say without even thinking about them. The only people I would dare say that these words still have any religious meaning for would be people who take their religion seriously.

For the majority of us they hold no meaning. That is why I do not take offense to In God We Trust being on our currency, and Under God in the Pledge of Allegiance. Sure both of these phrases were adopted in the 1950's to combat the Red Scare, but as far as I am concerned they are both meaningless. Whenever we say the Pledge we pass by those words without even giving them a second thought.


 I support the Separation of Church and State, but this is not wholly a Atheist issue. Many religious groups support the Wall of Separation, such as Americans United For Separation of Church and State who have both religious and non-religious members. And from the founding of our country the Baptists have supported the Separation of Church and State. I believe the Separation of Church and State is a delicate boundary that must be vigilantly maintained at all times.

Just as there are some Christians that are pushing to make their religion the law of the land, there are just as many Atheist pushing to see every last ounce of religion removed from the government. As for me I fall somewhere in the middle. I believe that in a democracy the government is a representation of the people it governs. No group of people will be homogenous, therefore a democratic government must work to balance the beliefs of it's people. And I believe the First Amendment to the Constitution was designed to do such. 

The Flying Spaghetti Monster
It is my opinion the First Amendment was not meant to keep religion out of our government, but also it was not meant for the government to adopt one official religion. I believe that it allows for such things as prayers before city council meetings, as long as everybody agrees to it at the beginning. And I do mean everybody. Because I also believe it does not mean you can have pray forced on to you. No teacher should have the power to make children pray in school. Be that teacher Christian, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, or followers of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (Pastafarians).   

Let us return to the phrases above. Like I said before I do not believe these terms hold any real religious meaning except for those people that take their religion seriously. Well there is another of group of people who apply meaning to these words as well, Militant Atheist. I once heard noted Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson talk about the time he was giving a speech at either an Atheist or a Skeptical meeting. He mentioned how he walked past a table and sitting there was a lady crossing out In God We Trust off all the money. He said after witnessing that he could not be an Atheist and that is why he chooses to call himself an Agnostic. Now while I suspect that's not the only reason he could not come to call himself an Atheist, I understand what he is saying.

If you do not believe in God, these words should not mean anything to you. As long as your health, safety, livelihood, privacy, or freedom are not being threatened.

Astrophysicist Carl Sagan when asked about his religious beliefs said that "I'm Agnostic." After his death his wife Ann Druyan stated that Carl was a nonbeliever. He had this to say on the subject of Atheism and God. 

  "An atheist is someone who is certain that God does not exist, someone who has compelling evidence against the existence of God. I know of no such compelling evidence. Because God can be relegated to remote times and places and to ultimate causes, we would have to know a great deal more about the universe than we do now to be sure that no such God exists. To be certain of the existence of God and to be certain of the nonexistence of God seem to me to be the confident extremes in a subject so riddled with doubt and uncertainty as to inspire very little confidence indeed"

For a long time I struggled with what Carl Sagan had to say. I was a proud Atheist, and how could a brilliant man such as Sagan say such a thing. But as time moved on, and I have been made aware how unreasonable some Atheist can be, I have come to see the wisdom in Carl's words. There is no way that we come to know with one-hundred percent certainty that some entity that we might label God does or doesn't exist. Now we can look at all the gods that mankind has ever worship; those that make testable claims we can try to falsify those claims by using the scientific method to see if they exist or not. Those that make no such claims our outside our ability to know if they exist or not. 

That doesn't mean there isn't any higher intelligence out. We have yet to reach a complete understanding of the universe we live in. We have come a far in what we learned about the cosmos, but there is so much more for use to ever understand. We are still infants in this universe, with every passing day we learn just a little more about this existence we have been born into. It is such a pity that we use that which we don't know to harm one another. 

I think in closing I will let Neil deGrasse Tyson have the final words. 


1 comment:

  1. believing in something means that you accept it, sometimes without scientific evidence. If you need ‘evidence’ of a god existing, you will be like one of the many who follow an antichrist’ because only a true God would convict you by heart, mind, and soul. An antichrist is the one who throws out paltry tricks to get someone to accept him/her as a god.
    I agree that people toss out words without thinking of them, at least when being said. In retrospect however they think of what they have said and they either think nothing of it or they do and they feel a particular grief having said it. People say things like this because most of humanity has no inclination to think before they speak.
    Christians do not stop every time they say the name of God and bow down and immediately begin praying. They in fact have God in their minds and heart all day long.

    I do agree with Carl’s statement, “an atheist is someone who is certain God does not exist, someone who has compelling evidence against the existence of God” but then…there would be no true atheists because there is no true evidence against the existence.
    Insightful opinionated blog even if I do not agree it all.