Today and Tomorrow (2006)
Today I am a reluctant but convinced ‘Bright’. I am someone with a naturalistic worldview, free of supernatural and mystical elements. I will not say that ‘I do not believe in God.’ To me, that statement can indicate a lack of belief or a lack of faith to believe in something. In context, I am explicitly an atheist, which simply describes an absence of any belief in gods. I wish to be affirmative and state what I conclude (rather than believe without evidence) but without the opposite extremism of an unshakable belief in an unseen deity attached. I do conclude that there is no God; no power or influence outside of the natural forces of science and nature that affect us; this planet or anything else that exists. I think that all we see and know is scientific and natural, obeying laws of nature; ‘life’ is ever changing and evolving, due to forces and rules set in motion by those factors alone. I conclude that there are absolutely no external influences in evidence beyond that, to date.
That thinking (not belief), perhaps better described, ‘present understanding’ is based entirely and only on evidence available to date. It is not set in stone and is not a closed opinion; it is just a current state of mind, based on facts that are known to me. If things were set in motion by some kind of higher intelligence or Supreme Being, then from all the available evidence, I can only conclude that He, She, They or It, has subsequently been conspicuous by His absence and never communicated with humans at any stage since His ‘creation’ and evolution was first set in motion.
However, I do not wish to be accused of ‘believing’ in the non-existence of a God as a matter of ‘faith’, as that is equally as silly as believing in a God without faith, when there is no tangible evidence for one. There is plenty of scientific evidence confirming the evolution of species. Neither extreme, the existence or non-existence of a ‘creator’ has yet been conclusively proven in terms of the origin of life. It is just that as of today, all the evidence appears to support the idea that no supernatural power has ever been involved with what we know has happened here on Earth. Most religions dispute at least some scientific fact, when it offends an established belief in something else (such as the flood or six-thousand-year-old earth). This will not do at all. So, that is my current, reasonably concluded, understanding, but not immovable or unchangeable status (which a religion requires), based on currently known facts. That is today – and for me.
Tomorrow is a new day with a clean sheet of paper, on which to write new things and discover new evidence and truth which I will readily accept, with no preconceived notions or ideas clouding my mind. Truth is relative until it becomes absolute. That is, I accept what is evidenced as (relatively) true, until further evidence allows even greater understanding. That is called having an open mind. By the end of tomorrow I may not feel the same, as my thinking is not dictated by atheism. Unlike a religious predetermined ‘stance’ which must then be defended, my deduction that atheism stands up is a current conclusion and not a preconceived notion which must not be offended. Every day it can and will be reconsidered in light of new knowledge, information and understanding, whatever that may be.
Describing myself as a ‘Bright’ only represents a present conclusion, a current opinion, based on all I so far know. I will not deliberately reject anything new that is evidenced. Nothing new has to be considered in light of a prior held ‘belief.’ I do not believe in anything without evidence. I reject feeling that something is true. I no longer trust feelings; they have let me down in the past. We can be very easily deceived. New evidence needs to fit in with nothing other than existing evidenced truth, which itself may alter, as it is also relative to such new evidence. There is no conflict with ultimate truth. I deal only with facts. Therefore, I see what is termed as atheism, as a relative truth. It stands up today, based on all I know and have experienced, but my mind still remains open to all new information without reservation.
Open minded atheism is not the same as being agnostic. To be true to myself, I have to retain that integrity, and I will. Religion previously restricted my ability to be open minded. We shall see what tomorrow brings. Meanwhile, pending further evidence, my overall understanding tells me that:
Life is an Illusion
Religion is a Delusion
Death is the Conclusion
That may sound depressing but it isn’t meant to be. All religion is most certainly a delusion and death is clearly the conclusion for us. As far as life being an illusion is concerned, it is simply to say that we each have an overall picture of life that we believe is the case – and inevitably we are wrong about almost everything we think we know – thus we live with the illusion that our ‘world’ is real when in fact most of it is actually false. If we question everything, and I mean everything, eventually we may get closer to the truth. If we don’t continue to question, even the things we think we already ‘know’ for certain, we will be under the illusion that our ‘reality’ is true when it almost certainly is not.
In even considering whether or not a God exists, we are really asking the wrong question. The real question is, does our individual ‘consciousness’, which is essentially the mind, survive the death of our bodies? With absolutely no scientific evidence that it does or even that it could or should, the question about a God existing becomes entirely irrelevant. It is a man made concept designed to accommodate wishful thinking that it would be ‘nice’ if life could continue forever. Humankind is arrogant enough to imagine itself above other species. Our problem is that we learned to think and reason. Unfortunately, much of our ‘reasoning’ is far from reasonable and sometimes extremely silly. There is no evidence that evolution or laws of nature include such a feature as a mind capable of existing after the death of a body in any species to date. There is no evidence that it would be possible for it to do so. The whole process is biological and once the body closes down and ceases to function, it is dead; and that means there is nothing within it that can survive, including the brain which creates the conscious mind.
Ashes to ashes and dust to dust. There is nothing left and the synapses which once fired and sparked our conscious ‘self’ cease to exist. Evidence that this is the case is abundant and simple to identify. There are many ways in which the brain can be affected, reducing its capacity to function correctly while the body is still alive, from simple memory loss through to complete insanity. The brain, and therefore the conscious mind, deteriorates with age. Brain cells die at an alarming rate as we grow older. Once any species passes the age at which it normally procreates, it begins to die. That is the way of things in (almost) all of nature. The only ‘future’ for us beyond bodily death lies in the existence of our progeny, which is why nature ensures each species battles for survival in terms of procreation, its continued evolution and survival at the expense of other species.
Most species have already become extinct. The idea that humans have a ‘spirit’ inside them is just as man made as the original concept of gods created by early humans. That we would rather our ‘awareness’ did not cease forever when we die, gives way to the absurd notion that perhaps it doesn’t. Humans were non-existent for countless billions of years before we were born and none of us seemed to mind, so why should we ever expect to wake up again when we are dead? Whatever would we do if we did? We should have outgrown such nonsense as imagining an eternity ‘worshiping’ some god or other a very long time ago. Humans invented worship along with their gods and if it transpires that life was sparked by a creator of some description, the last thing it would want is to be worshipped – it simply doesn’t make sense. When the body dies, we sleep forever. That is the way it was meant to be. Once that is fully understood and accepted then the question of God doesn’t even arise.
The Day After Tomorrow (2013)
My poor attempt (above) at describing my understanding may better be phrased by Professor Brian Cox:
“…I developed a deep irritation with the intellectual vacuity of those who actively seek to deny the reality of evolution and the science of biology in general. So empty is such a position, in the face of evidence collected over centuries, that it can only be politically motivated; there is not a hint of reason in it. And more than that, taking such a position closes the mind to the most wonderful story, and this is a tragedy for those who choose it, or worse, are forced into it through deficient teaching.
As someone who thinks about religion very little – I reject the label atheist because defining me in terms of the things I don’t believe would require an infinite list of nouns – I see no necessary contradiction between religion and science. By which I mean that if I were a deist, I would claim no better example of the skill and ingenuity of The Creator than in the laws of nature that allowed for the magnificent story of the origin and evolution of life on Earth, and their overwhelmingly beautiful expression in our tree of life.
I am not a deist, philosopher or theologian, so I will make no further comment on the origins of the laws of nature that permitted life to evolve. I simply don’t know; perhaps some day we will find out. But be in no doubt that laws they are, and Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection is as precise and well tested as Einstein’s theories of relativity.” (Cox & Cohen, Wonders of Life, 2013, p.9.)