Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Answers that answer nothing

Unoriginal thought alert! I've had the idea for this particular post percolating in my head for some time, but I've been hesitant to write it. Why? Well, a lot of this is totally unoriginal on my part. One thing I can't stand is when it's obvious that a person is simply quoting stuff that somebody else has said without giving it any original thought. I'm afraid that's how I'm going to come off here, but I'm going to go ahead and do it anyway. Hopefully this disclaimer will offset some of that, and even more importantly, I'll work out some sort of original thought at the end of all this.

I've been thinking lately that when I finally admitted to myself that I was an atheist, I had to deal with a lot more uncertainty than I did before. After all, when believing in God provides some answers, doesn't it? Why are flowers pretty? Why does food taste good? Why do mothers love their children? All of this can be answered with, "It's because that's the way God intended." Pretty good, huh? It certainly covers a lot of questions.

But what kind of answer is it, really? It's not an answer at all. In fact, all it does is create a lot more questions. It only makes sense if you accept the existence of this God in the first place. But even if you do, you have to ask the question as to who and/or what this God is. Where did it come from? Which god is it?

Of course, some people feel like they have the answers to those questions. As to where God came form, the answer is that he's Alpha and Omega - He's always existed. As to which God we're talking about, most people in the U.S. will tell you that it's Yaweh/Jesus. (We're you expecting Heimdall?)

And the same problem comes up yet again, doesn't it? All these answers do is create more questions. Alpha and Omega? Why the heck should anybody believe that such a thing is possible? And if something could always exist, then why not just say the universe has always existed (in some form or another) and cut out this overly-complicated God idea? And why should it be Yaweh/Jesus? Don't tell me that there's evidence - because there isn't. At least, nothing that I've ever heard (although I've heard many bits of "supposed" evidence that don't stand up to any kind of scrutiny. I'd be real happy if somebody could surprise me.)

Basically, I think that atheists are more comfortable with saying "I don't know". After all, you can use science to explain why mothers care for their children. If they didn't, the children wouldn't survive and consequently the species couldn't continue. Easy enough. But can it explain the deeper feelings that a mother has? Can it explain the sense of pride and amazement she has when her child says his first word or takes his first step? I don't know - maybe it can. But saying that it's because that's the way God wants it doesn't answer it any better than saying that the reason we have lightning is because Thor is striking down frost giants with his hammer. It sounds like an answer, but it isn't.

This might seem like a bit of a stretch, but to me, it's the same kind of thinking that people use to justify their belief in ghosts and the supernatural. Some strange, unexplainable thing happens, and therefore it's a ghost that did it. Shoot, in my old house, there was a strange clanking sound that always came from the kitchen. I'm sure if I brought in a "psychic" they'd tell me some story about it being the ghost of a guy who died in the kitchen. (I wonder if they ever show up and say, "Hmmm...must be a draft or something. No ghosts here!) Honestly, I don't know what that sound was, but why do ghosts even get to be an option?

I don't remember where I read it, but this kind of reasoning, when you break it down, essentially goes like this: "Since this phenomenon is unexplainable, it therefore is explainable."

I realize that I'm being flip when I make the allusions to Thor and lightning, but the fact of the matter is that for the longest time, human beings were unable to explain where lightning came from. Does that mean that Thor was EVER a reasonable answer to the question? Did he used to do it until we could figure out a natural way for it to occur? Is a ghost causing that strange sound in my old house but will immediately desist once somebody discovers what's clanking into what and where that draft is coming from?

So there you have it. I don't know if I've covered any original territory there, but I don't see why people are satisfied with answers that don't really answer anything. Is it really so hard to say that you just don't know?

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