Debating the existence of God is a distraction

In Defense of AtheismThe Scotsman‘s John Burnside reviews Michel Onfray’s new book ‘In Defence Of Atheism’ arguing that Onfray, like Dawkins and others are as irrational in their assertions as the religious believers that they so hate. “What I would ask is that atheists, in their public utterances at least, would refrain from appealing to the….faculty of human reason to support their irrational position.”

He continues “The only rational position is that of the agnostic, not because, or not just because, there can be no rational proof of god’s presence or absence, but because that argument itself is a pointless distraction….As far as I can see, the whole god question is the basis for a deliberate, mostly fearful limitation of the possibilities that the world offers, a little like pondering whether to vote Labour or Conservative, or choosing between various brands of identical detergent.”

I would agree whole heartedly with this view. I would define myself as both agnostic (we can never be sure) and an atheist, perhaps a weak atheist (it is the most attractive position for now). And a humanist of course (a label critical for practical reasons to highlight we are not some how deficient without religion). But having spent the last 9 months or so in the world of on-line atheism I have been struck with the near obsession people have with debunking, ridiculing and attacking religion. It is not something that interested me for very long me after I gave up on religion and I don’t think is the best use of anyone’s time, although it might give atheists a self congratulatory feeling of being clever.

People rarely find or lose religion as the result of rational enquiry. We rationalise whatever position we happen to find ourselves in (although to be fair rational and scientific enquiry has undermined large sections of traditional religious understandings of the world so perhaps it does have some value).

Even if an atheist really wants people to stop people believing in God (that’s not my position), isn’t a better approach than saying ‘religion is dumb and so are you’ to support things like international development, anti-poverty initiatives, efforts to raise literacy rates? And if people still believe after that, you’ve still made the world a better place. Everyone’s wins!


4 responses to “Debating the existence of God is a distraction

  1. I identify myself as a Bright partly because I find the distinction between agnostic and atheist pointless. It’s almost akin to arguing about the number of angels who can dance on the head of a pin.

    I fall into the de facto atheist slot. I cannot be 100% certain that there is no god, certainly that there is no deist god. But the probability of there being a theist god is certainly no greater than the probability of Father Xmas, the Tooth Fairy or pixies at the bottom of my garden.

    However, someone who falls into the traditional agnostic stance (50% certain there is no god) has far more in common with me (99.9999999…% certain there is no god) because we both derive our morals from reason and from a naturalistic worldview, not from any scripture.

  2. Since my mother died in 1983, I became more militant as an atheist. She had spent two hours daily, and more on Sundays, reading and praying.
    My first thought was “If her beliefs were not true ( which is what I thought) all that time would be entirely wasted.
    Since then I have studied more and more beliefs and take a very simple viewpoint. Every moment thinking about some (fictitious) future life or any of the normal religious thoughts of the middle eastern religions (judaism,christianity,or islam) would appear to me to be a total waste of time, other than a possible benefit of taking ones concentration from a stressful life to anything else. Deep breathing, exercise and relaxing can be equally beneficial, in my view.
    When religious organisations do socially useful work (christian aid, for example) I have no problem. But inculcating religious views into education is thoroughly bad for the mind, in my view, as that is how I was educated. It takes a long time to get this dross out of one’s mind, even to this day. Those in power, still believe these ideas. I was horrified when I attended a city council meeting recently when a vicar appeared and spoke christian prayers!

  3. I’d be prepared to accept that on the question of the monotheistic god, “the only rational position is that of agnostic” just as soon as monotheists declare their agnosticism on the question of all other gods.

    In the meantime I’ll stick to being an atheist who’s confidence in the non-existence of the monotheistic god admits of no unnecessary hair-splitting.

  4. And that’s it ? That’s all ? Pointless ? a distraction ? This question is closed ?
    So just put 20 centuries of reflexion in the dustbin and be the sheep you want to be…
    This is not because there is no answer to any interrogation that it is “pointless“ !!!…

    God is an hypothesis, and today we can all just deplore all those lies and death because of This Hypothesis.

    Dear readers, if you do believe in god, if you feel in your heart that something should exist, do it, believe, but please don’t listen anyone but yourself… Split on churches, preachers, and politicians, the really want you to rest the sheep in the flock you are… but if you still want to believe, make your own researchs on Jesus life and about the origin of Christianity… Search the differences between the different gospels, the several mistakes. Jesus wanted to revolutionise Judaism in middle-east but did not care about the others, and so he does not care about you today… The purpose of the movement created by Jesus, was apocalyptic “ prepare your soul, because god’s kingdom is close”… Fifty years later, there were still no world’s end, so it was time for those disappointed evangelists to remind and collect and invent all their old memories about this the clever hippy boy they meet earlier.

    God might exist, but Christianity, the way you have been learned to think, learned to pray, is bullshit. Religion want you to believe, there is no morality but them, do you still want to be convinced by what they say to you ? Yes ? If you do, your soul is already lost…

    Today, in United-States, Georges Bush wants to write a new gospel in the bible, in school, teachers want to teach the genesis anew. Would you let The Great Hypothesis bless the united-states, and save the queen ?… In Europe, Vatican wanted to evocate the existence of god in the aborted constitution. Tell me what kind of rational, true, and just system is this ?

    Dear reader, keep asking question, keep doubt, about god, about yourself, and about “Them”.
    Criticise and so let be criticised, but don’t ever let anyone saying you this is pointless.

    So not be it !

    Sorry 4 my bad english, I hope Ive been understandable enough…

    ( There is a very nice documentary series of interviews ( more objective than I am ) called : “Les origines du christianisme” made by French reporters Gerard Mordillat , and Jerome Prieur…. Try to find it and buy it, if you cant, I could download it on emule on mkv files French English and German languages and subtitles available” )

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