The God Delusion: Between Atheists and Humanists

I daresay that the word ‘humanist’ is one of the most abused words on earth. For one thing, many people label themselves humanists just because it sounds elegant and has become fashionable (like the word cultured). For another, many people tend to use the word as equivalent to other terms, one of which is…‘atheist’! Sounds strange? Not at all. For some reason, some atheists –specially scientists- tend to think of themselves as the coessential humanists that sympathize with –and revolt against- a specific human condition: the condition of intellectual slavery under the myth of religion, or as Richard Dawkins put it, under the ‘God Delusion’. Dawkins himself, an atheist evolution biologist whose religion is Darwinism, is the Vice President of the British Humanist Association, which represents “people who seek to live good lives without religious or superstitious beliefs.” Again, atheists lurking behind the term ‘humanists.’

There is absolutely no contradiction between the two terms. They are not mutually exclusive. Nevertheless, Dawkins –and many other atheist intellectuals- think they have a monopoly of the title ‘humanist.’ These are not my words, but rather quotes from Dawkins’s bestseller titled ‘The God Delusion’ that ended in my hands a few days ago. In this very interesting book, Dawkins says: “Being an atheist is nothing to be apologetic about. On the contrary, it is something to be proud of (…), for atheism almost always indicates a healthy independence of the mind and, indeed, a healthy mind.”

Why is disbelief a sign of a good mind? Some may be tempted to think that an atheist is someone who worked his mind, reflected, refused to accept ideas lacking empirical evidence, and ended up rejecting the notion of God. However, one can also be tempted to think that an atheist is someone who took the easy way out, rejected the presence of God and freed himself from the duties and limits set by religion, including the central concept of a ‘last judgment.’ At this point, it would be necessary to stress that I am only toying with the idea and with both sides (and there are more sides) of the argument without necessarily adopting any.

But I would like to share with you more quotes from ‘The God Delusion’ because, even though it is intensely provocative, it remains to be highly entertaining. That will be another message.


7 thoughts on “The God Delusion: Between Atheists and Humanists

      • Absolutely. While it may not be possible to “know” in the definite sense, I have decided that “no god. No afterlife” is the more constructive assumption.

      • It’s really not that great of an assumption. As rational creatures, me make choices based on probability all of the time.

        We typically are MORE LIKELY to believe (or maybe we should call it a “working belief”) something that has a higher probability of being true over something has a lower probability of being true. Why is it so different with god or religion?

        How come god and religion are allowed to play the “faith” card, when every other decision we make in life we stick to the rules of logic and reason?

        “Faith” is a joker card … and it doesn’t belong in the grown up games.

      • I see your point, it is actually close to one that was made by Dawkins in this book .Following the same token, however, isn’t the very ‘presence’ of the universe an almost impossible probability? This is not to defend one viewpoint at the expense of another, I’m just toying with the idea since the issue is an interesting one.

  1. No, I’m glad you asked that question, because I battled with that one as well. I asked the same question of myself … but lets think about the distorted logic that is so ingrained is us …

    A universe is an incredibly improbable thing housing an incredibly large number of incredibly improbable things. When you’re trying to look at a single improbable thing out of context it seems “miraculous” … But when you consider how many individually improbable things there are — an individual improbable thing starts to seem more “interesting” or maybe “mysterious” rather than allowing for “joker card” thinking with explanations like “miraculous”.

    Our associative human brains (which give us the survival mechanism of getting the “gist” of things) combined with the submissive spirit of mass opinion — tell us “well, if we are going to assume that god doesn’t exist because it’s so improbable, then why can’t we assume that god might exist if events are so improbable?”

    Because IT’S UNHEALTHY to think this way … you MIGHT win the lottery … but it is self-destructive to make any sort of emotional investment whatsoever in the possibility. SOMEONE WINS the lottery … as ticket sales increase, the possibility that SOMEONE WINS increases. We collectively understand that spending any significant portion of our income on gambling is self-destructive. Why are we so inclined to make such ridiculous emotional gambles on god’s existence? The explanation goes back to the rise of civilization.

    Until recently we have had limited understanding of the human brain. As more knowledge becomes public this outdated thought process will start to seem sillier and sillier.

    Also, consider that being “agnostic” is like buying a lottery ticket every day but claiming not to care about the outcome. If you buy the ticket … you are giving yourself a back-up plan (however improbable), and that’s going to shape how you perceive events one way or the other.

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