I'm not really all that mysterious

Belief, Heresy, Islamophobia, and New Atheism

I have flirted with the idea of non-belief for a while now ever since the beginning of my ongoing crisis of faith. It may seem wishy-washy, but I will go as far as agnosticism at most.

Ironically, this is because of some of the heretical intuitive beliefs I sometimes entertain: pantheism and the existence of superhuman (though not necessarily godlike) entities.

(One of my religion teachers pointed out my heresy of pantheism. It was only later that I recognized this heresy as akin to my ancestors’ beliefs in diwata dwelling within inanimate objects and in natural forces.)

My initial belief in pantheism mutated when I came across the idea of Boltzmann brains and the Simulation Argument (not to mention the premise of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in which the Earth is a supercomputer meant to compute the ultimate question about life, the universe, and everything whose answer is 42 and all the life on the surface of the planet is meant to be the processing matrix.)

What if we are merely cogs in a greater entity’s brain? Like cells or organelles living in the neurons of some universe-sized being?

The other idea that I’ve entertained is the idea that there are entities in existence with superhuman capabilities (although they are not necessarily gods.)

This isn’t really that far-fetched. Assuming that fl and fi in the Drake equation are sufficiently large to make N > 1, the likelihood is that any other intelligent life in the Universe is going to have a head start of several millions of years on us in terms of technology and possibly in directed evolution.

So that’s the admittedly somewhat confusing theological background I’m approaching the following article from:

We can save atheism from the New Atheists like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris • 2015 Nov 29 • Jeff Sparrow • The Guardian

Two things I got from this article:

(1) Perhaps the goal of atheism shouldn’t be just to not believe in religion or gods. The goal should be to not believe in myths. This should include myths about racial or cultural supremacy. And the “clash of civilizations” paradigm is really not that supported by historical evidence. It requires significant cherry-picking to arrive at that conclusion.

(2) Calling believers stupid kind of reminds me of creationist arguments against evolution that misunderstand what “fitness” means. It is empirical fact that a vast number of people believe in a higher power (or in higher powers.) There is sort of a denialist aspect in calling them all stupid because it refuses to recognize the fact that belief—whether justifiable by empirical evidence or not—can be a useful adaptation in many circumstances. It’s ironic that the man who coined the term “meme” doesn’t seem to recognize this. That the brain can believe all sorts of things that might not be true is simply a statement of fact about how the brain works. And there is some evidence that believing in things that cannot be proven by experimentation may have salutary effects. Not saying that we shouldn’t try to dispel our illusions—I am very much into debunking myths—just that there is probably a good reason why these illusions exist in the first place, and neglecting that premise is a mistake.

(crossposted on Facebook)

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