Gods and Ghosts and Angels and Aliens

5AB8C8F1-E5E9-4DB7-8CFF-2CF30E83D251A blogger who I follow, like, and respect, Paula Light, over Light Motifs II, responded to this question yesterday in her Share Your World post: “What, in your opinion, makes people believe absurd conspiracy theories?”

Paula answered that it’s fear that makes people believe in conspiracy theories. She said, “People are scared of the unknown, of things they can’t control ~ natural disasters, crime, death, etc. ~ so they latch onto comforting explanations. Without this comfort, many people would not be able to function because life is fucking terrifying.”

Okay, I can understand latching on to “comforting explanations” and how a belief in God and in those comforting explanations that various religions offer can help people cope. I’m not sure I get the link between comforting explanations and absurd conspiracy theories, but that’s okay.

But it was what Paula wrote next that got my attention. She wrote:

“And for the atheists who like to mock those who believe in the supernatural, I have news for you: you also believe in bullshit, just different bullshit. Consider this. At any moment, you could die and die horribly, but you don’t think about that because you wouldn’t be able to get through the day. And what’s more, every time you leave the house, you trust that crazy medicated (or unmedicated!) other humans in their monster vehicles are going to obey the traffic laws. These are the same people who believe in gods and ghosts and angels and aliens. But you believe they’ll stop at the red lights. That’s nuts! But you believe it or you couldn’t leave the house.”

I’m sorry, Paula, but I have no idea what point you were trying to make with your tales about dying horribly or getting killed by a crazy, medicated or unmedicated driver who runs a red light. What does any of that have to do with absurd conspiracy theories or being an atheist?

I am an atheist, so let me explain something to those who don’t really know what an atheist is. Atheists don’t hate God or hate people who choose to believe in God. Also, being an atheist does not mean that we don’t believe in anything. We believe in a lot of things and a lot of different things.

Please understand that there is no “good book” that atheists embrace, no common mythology that atheists accept, no specific dogma to which atheists adhere. There is but one thing that all atheists have in common, and that is that we don’t believe that God exists. We believe that God is a human construct, and serves as that “comfortable explanation” that a lot of people use to help get them through their lives.

And personally speaking, I bear no ill will toward those who choose to believe in God. Well, except for those “believers” who tell me that I can’t be a moral person if I don’t believe in God, that I can’t distinguish between good and evil or right and wrong, and that I’m condemned to eternal damnation in hell — which I also don’t believe exists — if I don’t accept Jesus Christ as my personal lord and savior.

I bear a lot of ill will toward those who tell me such things.

25 thoughts on “Gods and Ghosts and Angels and Aliens

  1. sandmanjazz October 16, 2018 / 6:24 am

    I am not quite sure what she means either. I know damn well I could die today, tomorrow, next week, month, year… It is the ironic one certainty in life, that and taxes, we all know is there. It doesn’t stop me from getting through to day and I doubt it prevents anyone else. There is no point in fearing the inevitable and the placement of faith in an deity as a counter to me suggests that it is they who have trouble accepting this very basic reality that we are all going to die.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ESP October 16, 2018 / 6:28 am

    What do you call people who hate the believers? Not antitheists for sure..

    Liked by 1 person

  3. kersten October 16, 2018 / 6:29 am

    I think conspiracy theories offer a neat explanation in a very complicated world. News reporters often say to those they interview can you give a yes or no answer ; you see it’s part of our desire to sort things out , pigeonhole them so they don’t play on our minds. The worst type of questions are unanswered ones , philosophers refuse to shrug their shoulders , they are on a quest to put ignorance to rest.
    ‘ Where ignorance is bliss ’tis folly to be wise.’

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Paula Light October 16, 2018 / 6:58 am

    I’m an atheist too, but I have an issue with my fellow atheists who mock believers. I find that many atheists also believe in things that are absurd and can’t be proven, just not gods. When believers are not telling me how to live, I have no problem with them. My point about driving was that even atheists put a lot of trust in things that may seem objectively crazy, such as trusting their very lives on the road to the same people who believe in gods, etc. But on the internet, I see such vile mockery from atheists toward believers, calling them all idiots and such, and vice versa of course.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango October 16, 2018 / 7:36 am

      Vile discourse on the internet is not limited to atheists and believers. Being an atheist doesn’t mean that you don’t embrace conspiracy theories, however I’ve never met a flat-earth atheist, a climate change denying atheist, or an atheist who believes 9/11 was staged by the government or that school shootings are elaborately staged hoaxes. And trusting that other drivers will follow the rules of the road has nothing to do with religious beliefs or lack thereof. We all have to trust, to a certain extent, that people will follow the laws of the land, even though there are some who don’t. Otherwise it would be complete chaos. And by the way, I still look both ways when I cross at an intersection with a traffic signal just to make sure no driver is approaching it too quickly. You know — trust but verify.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Paula Light October 16, 2018 / 7:51 am

        I went out with an atheist who believed that Sandy Hook was a hoax and 9/11 was perpetrated by “bankers.” They exist.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Marleen October 16, 2018 / 8:03 am

        From the brief list starting with “flat earth,” I’ve met atheists (as well as non-atheists) who believe 9/11 was… well, not “staged by the government” but that certain things happened because of the people in government at the time — from negligence in oversight to controlled demolition (after the jets had hit). But that is sure different from staging… and different from chalking up deaths in schools to government staging or child actors.

        I look more at intersections now than I used to (trusting not so much and verifying).

        Liked by 1 person

  5. James Pyles October 16, 2018 / 7:17 am

    I don’t know if this is particular to atheists, but just about everyone has “sacred cows,” beliefs or concepts that, if someone questions them, they come out fighting. A really big one is evolution, which is misunderstood by just about everyone. Probably my mere mention of it here will bring out scientific rebuttals and so on and so forth.

    “Women’s reproductive rights” is another that many respond to with a great deal of emotion. It was the primary reason Dianne Feinstein and the other Dems worked so hard to foil the Kavanaugh confirmation, even before Dr. Ford’s disclosures.

    Climate change is yet another of the “sacred cows” that, if anyone questions any part of this scientific construct and the data behind it, elicits a strong, emotional response (usually by calling their opponents “deniers” which is tantamount to “morons”).

    As you said, Fandango, atheists do believe passionately in many things, and the justification is “science,” which is actually just a methodology for studying anything observable, forming a hypothesis about what is being observed, and then testing and retesting and refining and refining (or refuting) the hypothesis (and yes, it’s based on facts, not truth).

    I’m not making this comment to argue against any of those belief systems. I mention them only to say that we all have our “triggers.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango October 16, 2018 / 7:46 am

      True. But most of the “sacred cows” you mentioned (e.g., climate change, evolution) are based upon well documented scientific research and you don’t have to be an atheist to believe in them. And even women’s reproductive rights are based upon the fact that women are human beings who, just like men, should be able to make their own decisions about their health and well-being. It just seems to me that there is a segment of “believers” who reject these “sacred cows” simply because they contradict what the Bible says, so for them, mythology trumps science, rationality, and reason. I don’t understand that.

      Like

      • James Pyles October 16, 2018 / 8:00 am

        However, I suspect that at least some people believe in said-“cows” because “a scientist said so,” rather than looking into each topic (to the best of their ability in analyzing complex data sets).

        Liked by 1 person

        • Tina Stewart Brakebill October 16, 2018 / 9:15 am

          You seem to be framing that like it’s a negative. I am a reasonably intelligent college educated person but I’m not going to pretend that I understand the finer points of climate science or astro physics or laser surgery but I DO understand that there are people that do. It is unreasonable for me to reject the science of climate change or the shape of the earth or the ability of a laser to correct my vision or repair a body part … just because I’m not able to wade my way through the academic findings. I want scientist and doctors and physicists … to be smarter than me about their respective fields!!

          Liked by 1 person

          • James Pyles October 16, 2018 / 11:07 am

            What I mean is that I believe there may be people who simply read a news article saying the science is “settled” (by its very nature, science is never settled) on a certain matter, and so elevate the findings or conclusions to the level of fact, and then never again think about their conclusion.

            I’m not a scientist, but I am reasonably intelligent and possess three university degrees, so to the limits of my abilities, I try not to take things for granted and will seek out multiple sources on a matter, sometimes over a span of time (for instance, in the mid-1970s, my astronomy classes told me that black holes [supermassive collapsed stars] existed, but as of 2014, the late Stephen Hawking disagreed).

            Yes, I acknowledge that there are a lot of people more intelligent and better educated than I in their specialties, but if I find it necessary, I’m also going to get a “second opinion” on a matter (and my wife is constantly doing that relative to the traditional medical model in relation to nutrition and aging).

            I try not to automatically accept or reject anything. I’m a writer. I thrive on research. Climate change isn’t any more or less “holy” than cosmology (the study of the origins of the universe) or the end products of stars, so I intend to treat its study the same way.

            Liked by 1 person

  6. Marleen October 16, 2018 / 7:42 am

    It was the primary reason Dianne Feinstein and the other Dems worked so hard to foil the Kavanaugh confirmation, even before Dr. Ford’s disclosures.

    You’ve dropped the part where you said, previously, “in my [your] opinion.” You’ve also previously said you hadn’t heard of there being other reasons ahead of time even though people had talked about other reasons ahead of time as well as after.

    Nevertheless, I wish people had talked more about the other reasons in the news. Republicans count on people to be stupid and not know and therefore not resist. And non-Republicans may feel that people have been too dumned-down too. But the fact that there was a lot of talking about that [reproductive rights] subject (including via a couple Republican women who gained attention by possibly being votes against Kavanaugh) doesn’t mean the warnings weren’t out there (as well as in online conversation).

    Liked by 1 person

  7. kersten October 16, 2018 / 11:42 am

    Many believers are very intelligent , just look at the list of Christian apologetics. Many members of ISIS are intelligent , some have been through university. What men and women believe depends on their mind -set , that is why radicalisation is so dangerous and very difficult to undo. Remember there are also very dumb atheists ; I do not believe highlights IQ resides only among atheists or any other ists , it’s a bell curve and MENSA members have to be above 140.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Marleen October 16, 2018 / 12:39 pm

      Many believers are very intelligent … Remember there are also very dumb atheists ….

      I agree — as I do with other configurations of these words/categories.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Marilyn Armstrong October 16, 2018 / 3:41 pm

    I think she is saying the same thing I say: You cannot prove the existence of God. You cannot prove the NON-existence of God. Either way, it’s faith. Take your pick. Whatever works for you. But if you think you have The Answer, you are no less depending on faith than anyone else. Personally, I sit firmly on the fence. I DO NOT KNOW and I don’t think I will ever know. What is,

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Sight11 October 16, 2018 / 10:29 pm

    I’m an atheist.. I don’t know if I’m a good human being or not.. And for me what matters is that the other guy see me more or less as a human being.. Not as non-American, male or music hater, these are my traits but my basic identity remains that of a human being…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango October 16, 2018 / 10:58 pm

      I’m sure you’re a good human being. The fact that you separate “traits” and characteristics from humanity demonstrates that. Although how good of a human being can a music hater be?

      Liked by 1 person

  10. XingfuMama October 16, 2018 / 11:00 pm

    I see conspiracy theories as akin to myths. A story made up to try and make sense of the strange and unusual. We try to do that when we are scared so we can figure out how to cope. Sometimes it works physically, like washing hands and not eating pork in the Old Testament (which get rid of germs and avoid parasites), sometimes it doesn’t really work but makes us feel better either by doing something as opposed to nothing.

    It is my belief that today we are, as a people, struggling with how to deal with faith, a variety of faiths, as our view of the world has changed, and is changing, in ways that are both frightening and fascinating. We don’t yet have a good, shared vocabulary to communicate our views. This can result in being confused about what each of us means when we try to talk about these issues. This is what I saw in this post, to some extent. Questioning so we can move toward a shared way to talk about things is a very healthy and valuable exercise.

    When we didn’t know what the world looked like from space and we saw people disappear on the horizon it was possible to make metaphors, which became myths, to try and explain that experience, both the physical and the emotional. Once one sees and grasps the physical, the myths lose literal meaning. But it still can evoke the emotional truth of watching a loved one disappear from view in a way that the mathematical formulas for the disappearance don’t. It is when people try to argue that the myth is factual, and has value beyond its ability to communicate the emotional reality in a shared story that we all understand that we run into this wall of weirdness.

    When the USA had the shared mythology of the Bible (I am using the term “myth” as meaning a powerful story containing truth, but not necessarily being factual, you might call it the Joseph Campbell definition). We could use a term like “feet of clay” and people got the message that went well beyond the literal meaning of the phrase, because we all knew the rest of the story. One factor in today’s craziness is people clinging to the idea that we should go back to that time, disregarding that it wasn’t so great for an awful lot of folks, instead of working forward to a new shared ethos combining science and a set of shared moral values.

    Coming up with a shared ethos is doubly complicated, because science be can used to describe the physical, but not really help much with the emotional/spiritual, and we have people who are being encouraged to not learn and accept the science, taking away the one area where we could begin to forge a shared understanding beyond whether you go to church, synagogue, mosque, or find spirituality somewhere else.

    This got way too long.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango October 16, 2018 / 11:21 pm

      No, it wasn’t too long at all. A very interesting and thoughtful comment. I’m glad you shared your thoughts.

      Like

  11. danielwalldammit October 18, 2018 / 4:21 pm

    Those people generally do stop at the red lights. It may be a bit unnerving to think about the alternative, but no, it’s not crazy.

    Liked by 1 person

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