September 12th, 2000


Hyena on Atheism

In the course of a conversation, a long term acquaintence turned to me and asked, "You're an atheist, right?"

I answered that, No, I was a pagan.

"What?!?" he exclaimed. "But... You're a math head; you're a science geek. You MUST be an atheist."

I sighed and answered, "I am NOT an atheist because I choose not to be one. The world of atheism is cold and dead and BORING. I don't want to live there, so I don't. It pleases me to live in a world where a hundred year old oak can have a spirit, where a rock on a hilltop can have a memory, where that noise in the treetops just MIGHT-- not IS, just MIGHT-- be fairies. I live in that world because I choose to live there; it's more FUN."

He was flabbergasted. "But... You can't PROVE any of that."

I shrugged. "You're right. But because it is IMPOSSIBLE to disprove an intermittent fact, neither can you disprove any of it."


I try to discourage my friends from self describing as atheists. I am long past arguing metaphysics; logic requires agreement on initial axioms, and religious discussion is profoundly resistant that kind of agreement. My argument is with the label. I start by asking what the label means to them, and then try to suggest alternatives. If they have truly rejected the numinous completely, why not just admit to being materialists? If, as is often the case, they have chosen a specific deity to not believe, I suggest that they investigate alternatives. And if they really and truly want to identify themselves with the toxic, militantly anti-religious crazies, well, that is usually the end of the conversation.

Objective religious truth is an oxymoron; you can NEVER know before you believe, you have to believe before you know. There are myriad possible religious truths, and given that, it is foolish to choose to give one's belief to a system that doesn't improve your life in some way. Refusing to choose a belief system because you can't prove its validity first is beyond foolish, because the idea that religion can improve your life is NOT a religious truth, it is an empirical one.

Paul Haynie