That’s right. I intend to start my blog with the most dangerous subject, Religion. No one is going to accuse this fool of being timid or avoiding the big issues. I caution that I am going to upset people on both sides with my opinions, but I suggest you read the about page before getting too upset or commenting.
To get right down to it I am an atheist by definition. I say ‘by definition’ because the literal definition of the term is ‘not a theist’ (believing in supreme being(s)). Well, I consider every religion that I have ever studied, which is most of them, to be firmly in the ‘not even wrong’ category of ideas. For those unfamiliar with the term, it means that they can’t be falsified and don’t provide any reliable predictions. In other words, they are not useful in any rational discussion except as bad examples. So, I am definitely not a theist since I don’t even give religious ideas credit. Now I know that is going to upset believers, but I am still waiting for any religious idea that tells me anything useful that I did not already know or could find out through reason.
Please note that I actually consider the term atheist to really only ‘defining by a negative’. It does not tell you what I think. It just tells you that I don’t agree with one particular set of ideas. Hence I need to explain what I really think.
On a side note, I believe the reason so many atheist feel the need to devote such time to explaining why they don’t agree with religious ideas is the ‘definition by negative’. Literally, atheists are defined by anything that is not-a-theist. Even recent articles and news outlets refer to us as None’s. I have no desire to point out all the flaws in religions or the immoral behavior that is often done based on these ideas.
I think religious belief results from an error in reason as opposed to being its antithesis. The initial error in reasoning is one of misdirected efficiency in our minds. In short, believers have created an answer that is… something (or someone) that I don’t know about and don’t understand must have done it. Again, this is really just a restatement of the idea that everything is ‘caused’ or is the result of other events. So far the logic is actually sound but incomplete. In saying it is ‘sound’ I mean that it is purely logical to say everything has a cause not that it was ‘done’ by someone.
On the other hand, the reasoning is incomplete. All they have really said is that they don’t know the answer but the answer exists. Now this is the misdirected efficiency of the mind. The mind is a pattern analyzer and goal seeker, but in order to process all the data it acquires though the senses and from stored data it has short-cuts. To keep this brief, I am saying the mind assigns properties to known concepts and does not consider them further unless there is a reason to differentiate them.
As an example, if I offer you two blue pills that appear identical and say you must take one of them and swallow it. Since I only offer one, you naturally attempt (usually a question) to verify other properties. If I say they are actually the exact same pill, you don’t bother to really think much more and probably just select either the easiest to reach or the delegate the choice to sub-conscious processes (select at random).
I am making the statement that this is the identical process used to create believers and non-believers. In short, we all logically reach the conclusion that everything has a cause and we don’t know it. Both sides have to ‘model’ this concept in their minds so they assign it with those two properties. The two properties are that it is ‘a’ cause AND it is not known. In the example these are the two blue pills (objects that are blue and pill shaped).
So far there is not an issue, but here the efficiency can trip us up. If we then see something or an interpretation is required, the brain searches for an answer. If we are searching for only two properties (a cause and not known), we get our concept as the perfect ‘match’. If you stop at this point, you are a believer. However, you forgot to ask if the two pills are actually the same. Please remember this is not a matter of someone being ‘wrong’. This person is just not completing the loop and checking the answer they get with the sense data.
The non-believer continues on this path and realizes that the ‘model’ is not actually something that exists but a list of properties. In this case, you have to realize that all answer are responses but not all responses are answers. Hence, it does not match as an answer to the ‘What caused X question?’ It actually IS the question just in concept form. If you stop here you are probably an atheist or agnostic. This means you simply are saying that you recognize the question but don’t know the answer.
I am an atheist because I still don’t know the answer. Religions are ‘not even wrong’ because the misdirected efficiency cannot be falsified and can never make a useful prediction. It is vital to understand that the key word about the predictions is ‘useful’. Religion can only offer us the prediction that everything that does happen will have a cause (not very useful). Religion is only an efficient concept which is why believers always resort to the phrase ‘It just makes sense to me.’ Well, it makes sense to me too, but is incomplete.
Finally, I offer one thing to believers. I think the atheists who feel the need to blame religion for the evils of the world are guilty of the same efficiency error. In this case, religion is not the cause of immorality but the same thing that causes religion does cause immorality. It is not possible to reasonably (with complete reason) reach a truly immoral conclusion. This will be the subject of a later blog.