Uncle Hyena (unclehyena) wrote,
Uncle Hyena

Language and Spirituality

I am always inclined to bristle a bit when one of my friends describes him or her self as an atheist. I don't always ask what is meant, but I always want to. To me, the title "atheist" is inextricably linked to that bizarre subset of sorry creatures who have chosen a specific god in which they do not believe, that is, religious atheists. I am inclined to say that atheism is a religion, and agnosticism is a condition, and am usually met with blank stares.

It goes like this:
The atheist says, "I believe there is no god." This is a statement of affirmative non-belief; atheism is a religion.
The agnostic says, "I do not believe there is a god." This is a statement of an absence of belief; agnosticism is a condition.

There is a significant difference between, "I do not believe," and "I believe not". If "I believe" has a value of one, "I do not believe" is zero, and "I believe not" is negative one. It matters.

All of which serves as an imperfect segue into a few thoughts on the matter of combining spirituality with a scientific outlook, and wishing William of Occam had used his famous razor to cut his own throat.

I first encountered Occam's Razor when I was in college, and it intrigued me until I realized the frequency with which it was used without need, and the undeserved authority which was often ascribed to it. The proper scope of the principle is situations when two or more suppositions fit the facts easily well, AND IT IS NECESSARY TO ASSUME A SPECIFIC ONE IS TRUE. It is a means of choosing a fantasy, not a real truth test. On top of this, the principle doesn't really even satisfy its design parameters; "simplicity" is often not simple, and is itself a subjective judgment.

And since we are making subjective judgments ANYWAY... Why be cheap? When two arguments fit the facts equally well, and you must assume one to be true, PICK THE ONE THAT AMUSES YOU MOST. Why not? You will be making a subjective decision in any case, why not play it for fun?

This is what led me, in the end, to paganism. Monotheism is intellectually bankrupt, materialism and agnosticism are both boring (and invitations to sociopathy, but that is a subject for another time). I LIKE living in a universe where there be dragons around all of the edges, and where the trees listen when I talk to them.

I also know that I am a vanishingly small minority on this, and I cannot imagine why...

Uncle Hyena
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