Free Thought and Atheist GurusSubmitted by Menschken on Sat, 01/25/2014 - 01:21
I know all about free thought. I am free thought.
I don't remember ever having strong belief in God, even as a child. As soon as I reached the age of thinking, 12 for me, I felt absolutely no restraint from a religious direction and devoured whatever information I could get my hands on regarding the ultimate questions.
At first that meant just finding whatever encyclopedia entries on physics, relativity, etc. Whatever was at arm's length in those pre internet days that seemed to hold the promise of truth.
I spent a lot of time in mall book stores in the science section, looking for ultimate truths if there were any to be had. There was not even a hint in my upbringing that would point me toward religion or God for answers, and so I gravitated toward Physics, hoping to find answers.
I don't claim any special aptitude or deep understanding of the popular level physics I read, but I was well on my way to adopting the atheist position as my default simply because God was not mentioned as anything intellectually serious anywhere in my searching. To me God was just a made up person, and had no explanatory value.
I never heard of any logical or intellectual arguments for God's existence, and never knew such a thing existed. There is just no information on that kind of thing available to a regular, non religious child. Public education, popular media, television, science books, all more or less assume atheism.
I was a comfortable atheist for over 15 years, not giving it much thought as a controversial matter, and simply enriching and coloring in my atheism with reading on biology, evolution, and science.
I spent my time and mental energy exploring every other area of contention and controversy -- my true passion -- and especially political and historical controversy, with a free open mind and the strongest stomach for unpalatable Truth I've ever come across.
I have a contrarian bent that delights in discovering and embracing unutterable truths, and so if I ignored the debate over theism, it was because I didn't know it existed.
I accepted naturalistic atheism and all that it implied about human beings, about biological and cosmic evolution, the subjectivity of human morality, the frailty of human intellect, and took them all to their logical conclusions. I still had no conception whatsoever that intellectual arguments for and against theism existed and have raged for millenia. The age old question of the primacy of mind or matter was outside my secular radar.
When I finally discovered that such arguments existed, it was a long time before I accorded them any respect or attention as worthy of my time. When I entertained them, it was just for my entertainment, and to get my fix of intellectual bloodsport, watching people debate.
I had already adopted a more or less neutral view of religion by this time, realizing that it played its role in social and cultural life, and while it wasn't for me, I considered that to be my privilege as a free thinker. I realized that the big questions are really beyond answering, and at some point you have to opt either for skepticism or faith. That millions of people less endowed than me should opt for a comforting faith and community of belief was no offense to me.
You can never know, so you have to either accept God as the ultimate answer, or else maintain a posture of permanent skepticism, and bear all the heavy weight of that skepticism your whole life, holding off all the temptations and comforts offered by a final answer, and the peace it brings.
I accepted that some people throw in the towel earlier than others and that atheism was a privilege of the few, requiring intellectual strength and hardiness.
But finally I actually started listening the the strongest proponents of theism and their strongest arguments, and realized that the matter is far from settled, and that there are powerful philosophical arguments for God, and also powerful defeaters for belief in naturalism, not least of which was the requirement that you adopt a total skepticism of all our reasoning and thinking faculties on a belief system where the mind is formed haphazardly for survival.
Anyway, the matter is far, far from settled and there are powerful arguments and evidences on both sides.
What strikes me now as interesting and strange is how people in the supposed free thought circles like Kokesh or Molyneux don't even seem to realize or acknowledge that this biggest of all questions is not even remotely answered and maybe can't be answered.
To try to steal from the individual this deepest of all questions, the answer to which changes everything else, is shameful. For people who claim to champion freedom, free thought and free conscience to try to impose their conclusions on the biggest question of all betrays a total lack of respect for their followers as free and equal minds. Their need for their followers to adopt their atheism also reveals a monumental intellectual insecurity (quite justified) in their rickety faith in atheism.
Their assumption that free thought means believing there is no God is completely unjustified and narrow minded.
Its almost as if they don't realize that there is a world -- a universe and a reality, time and space, and living minds -- that has absolutely no explanation, is mind boggling in its existence, and just cries out with its absurdity.
Even with all the best modern science, and all its success in describing the physical world in mathematical terms, there still not even a ghost of an understanding of why and how anything at all exists. Physics does not even touch this question and can't. It can't go beyond the physical world, and doesn't attempt to. There is no ultimate scientific explanation for anything. All science terminates and must terminate with a giant question mark.
While we should all engage in the search for answers with the scientific method and its best tools, we need not abandon the inner search for answers in our own minds, with our own reason, our own mental and spiritual resources. Test tubes and laboratories are not the only possible source of truth, and to claim they are is to make a claim that cannot be proven logically, scientifically or otherwise.
Having some self appointed guru tell you that you have to believe the soul or God does not exist, in order to be free, is a blatant affront to the whole endeavor of individual free search and discovery. Denying that the great questions exist or pretending they've been answered is a rip off for all the young, curious minds, most of whom have never even been allowed to realize this question exists, and led to believe by default that our "scientists" have it all worked out, when they don't.
If there is any brainwashing going on, it is the lie that science has answered and understands the deep metaphysical questions of life. That claim is a fraud, a state sponsored lie, and is a pretense to knowledge that no one has.
Aside from a few self promoters and book hawking (pun intended) popularizers, most serious and sober minded physicists realize that science does not even begin to touch on the fundamental metaphysical (beyond physics) questions, and cannot by its nature.