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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Excellent article in the Arizona Daily Wildcat

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Arizona Daily Wildcat

Dear atheists: I know you pride yourselves on being the most rationally-minded people. You reject major religions and gods on the basis of a lack of evidence. But many of the beliefs you hold are disappointingly irrational, superstitious - even religious. Some of you almost make me ashamed to call myself an atheist. Almost.

Excellent article by a student. Some of the comments are a bit harsh, but I actually agree with him and approve of his tone. Personally, I've met a few atheists (such as my wife) who are not entirely skeptical when it comes to some things like psychic phenomena and reincarnation, and while I certainly respect anyone's right to believe whatever they want, I just can't wrap my head around believing in something that either has no evidence supporting it or directly contradicts the available evidence.

One of the commenters there made an excellent point: atheism and rationalsim are not the same thing. I suppose it has a lot to do with how one comes to be an atheist. If you've made the journey by investigating, discussing, reading, etc. and come to the conclusion from a logical, evidentiary process, are you more likely to be skeptical of the paranormal and/or supernatural?

I do think it's important to look inward as well as outward and be as skeptical of our fellow atheists as were are of theists. Irrational beliefs are, well, irrational and should be called as such.


Aratina said...

Hi. Here via Pharyngula :)

I caught wind of that study being pushed by right-wing media that says atheists are less rational about reality than religious people, but I rejected it out of hand because of the people behind it; the Wall Street Journal and other such publications are known for bending the facts to meet their agenda. By the way, this is very telling: Baylor University Press website. So you see, you can't believe that study at all for its bias.

But I understand what you mean about atheists "who are not entirely skeptical". I have my own little take on it. Suppose one day a story runs on the news that humanoid aliens have landed on earth. Which type of person, atheist or religious, would more likely reject this news out of hand? I think that an atheist would be skeptical but less willing to reject it at first, while a religious person would most likely immediately reject it because it doesn't fit with their ideology that humans are the most special pets of a particular god.

Of course, I have not done a study to prove that, but I do sense that religious people are actually very restricted in what they view as possible. So religious people are very irrational, but also very skeptical of things not fitting their ideologies.

mathyoo said...

Good points. Unfortunately, the skepticism of religious people also extends to science that contradicts their beliefs.

Another factor to consider is that atheists tend to all get lumped together, but the reality is that there are just as many, and perhaps more, flavors of atheist than theist. Once you reject theist dogma, it frees you up to start thinking about what you DO believe, and for some that opens the door to many things.

I also find it a logical fallacy to say that just because there are more crazy things that some atheist believe than theists, that that means atheists are less rational. You can't judge irrationality by the number of irrational things people believe. And, just to be a Christian, you have to believe a whole lot of very irrational things: reincarnation, turning water into wine, creating fishes and loaves out nothing, people can live inside a whale, the whole Noah's Ark story, etc.