Being a pure athiest or at least as pure as one can be, given my inability to prove it, I am often baffled by religion and the religious. It would also seems that the religious are often baffled by me. I think one of the main difficulties with the religious understanding athiesm, is that they look at it as just another religion competing with their own. The fallacy in this is that the absence of something is not just another form of that something. If I was in a room full of people, each of whom is holding either an orange, a lemon, or a lime, and I am holding nothing, that does not make my empty hand another form of citrus fruit. And like my empty hand is not an orange, a lemon or a lime, my atheism is not a religion, mearly the absence of one.
Being a lazy Sunday I thought it might be interesting for some to read why a person who is an atheist, in a world full of religions, got to be that way. This is not an argument intended to convince the religious to be otherwise, mearly one mans view of the great unknown.
First of all when I say religion I mean western religion, since most that derive out of the far east are better described as philosophies.
Historically religion has served many purposes, some benign and others not so much. I don't want to get into all the roles of religion as much as I want to boil them down to the lowest common denominator. I believe that would be the creation of the world around us.
For eons religions have had a creation story or myth (ever notice that religions that aren't currently in belief are called mythologies?) to explain how everything came to be. As you go back in time, many of these are at best quaint by modern standards (other are better described as patently absurd), but they all do the same thing. They explain to us how we and everything around us came to be, how it was created. Now in order for something to be created, it must have a creator.
In older religions that had an entire patheon of 'gods', usually one (or two in some symbolic sex act) is responsible for the creation of the universe. In modern religion this creator is the one and only god. Regardless, they all pretty much have an entity that existed before the universe that then created it in some manner or another. In modern religion this is very important because in order for a god to be 'all powerful' it must have influence beyond the universe itself. It would not make sense that something that evolved within the universe somehow came to be able to control and influence everything. In this sense the modern 'God' has become synonymous with 'that which created the universe', for if it did not create the universe it wouldn't be able to control all that which occurs with-in.
The reason for this lengthy preface is to form a most basic concept of modern religion so that it is easier to explain the absence of one. I also want to avoid any specific dogma because that can be disagreeable between religions. I want to boil it down to a point all truly religious people can agree on. This basic concept is that the universe was created by some entity that exists beyond it. So athiesm becomes a lack of belief in a 'creator' and as such a 'god'. This simplifies my title from the ambiguous 'why I am an athiest' to the much more succinct 'why I don't believe in a creator'.
And this is why:
My main problem is with the need for a creator in the first place. If all religions have the universe 'created' they are in fact saying that the universe can not of always existed. They say it had to come from somewhere. My problem with this is that something had to of always existed. If not the universe, then that which created it. If something has not always existed then something created the creator and where did it come from. This can go on forever amd leads nowhere. So either we have an infinite chain of creators or we have something that has existed forever (or if you want to go all sci-fi, we can say that in the future mankind becomes so advanced that it goes back in time and creates the universe, but this opens up an entirely different bag of worms lol). Since nobody seems to believe in the infinite chain of creators (to my knowledge) we are left with the fact that something has existed forever. I think all can agree with this, though what it is that has, is what seperates the religious from the athiest.
So we all agree something has existed forever, right?
Another thing we can all agree on is that the universe does truly exist. To believe otherwise is to question ones own existence and the paradoxes become so complex that any discusion of anything is meaningless.
So we can all agree that the universe exists, right?
So we have two 'givens': Something has always existed and the universe exists.
The complexity comes in the non-givens. God can neither be proven nor unproven. And I mean ever! If God is beyond the universe and we are confined within, then no matter how advanced we get, it will always be beyond our ability to see beyond the universe. In some ways everything ends right here at the unprovable. We are stuck with a Schrodinger's God, one that both exists and doesn't at the same time. The problem being that the box is unopenable and we will never know whats inside.
We are left with two equally unprovable concepts:
A God that is not known to exist has always existed and created the known to exist universe.
A known to exist universe has always existed.
Thats it, these are the two possibilities and only one is correct. But are they equal? Do they both deserve equal weight given all criteria? I think not.
The first problem is with the always existing 'God'. The idea that an intelligent sentient entity existed in nothingness for eternity until it created something has a lot of logical issues. Though they can all be argued individually, taken as a whole they leave a lot to be desired. Explaining this 'God' and its environment is impossible. One has to go through so many contortions of logic to get anywhere even close. And though not everything we know of is completely logical, very little is completely illogical.
The other big devide between the two above statements can be boiled down to Occam's Razor. Occam's Razor basically says that, when dealing with the natural world and given two relatively equal possibilities, that which is simplest is most often correct. Applying this to the above statements leaves no contest. The second one is by far the simplest. It includes all that we know and nothing that we don't. By adding the 'creator' into the equation, it not only adds something we don't know about but also adds an entire extra step.
So the reason I'm an athiest is because I believe the universe has always existed and therefor was never created, and as such can not have an all powerful being controling it. Have I proven it? Not by a long shot! But the truth is that it can never be proven. Which is why I do leave some probability for there still being a god.
I do not say that there is 100% chance there is no god. I say that the probabilty of there being a god is so close to 0 that it is virtually indistinguishable.