Do atheists own rationality?

I was told yesterday that someone follows my blog (thank you, we all have some narcissism!). I was told that he was amazed that anyone with intelligence could believe in God. He apparently describes himself as an atheist.

I’ve been pondering this.

It seems to me that at the heart of this view is the sense of superiority that atheists can have, that they “own” intelligence. Allied to that is their view that somehow intelligence “disproves God”. I assume here that they mean rationality, as opposed to emotional intelligence.

This argument is close to me because as an evolutionary biologist at Cambridge I had this argument flow past me in waves. Indeed I spent a large part of life summoning up the courage to confront the possibility of there being nothing, no purpose, no God. I concluded after several years of living in this space that in fact it is atheism that is illogical. Having got that out of the way – but not until my 40’s – I have finally been able to relax into the rich world of the living purposeful connection that is meaningful life.

Here’s why I don’t believe in no-God.

First, let us remove rationality from the frame. Nothing can be proved. There is no external premise or starting point from which a logic chain can reach any kind of “proof”. It seems rather (read “Godel Escher Bach” or “The Science Delusion by Rupert Sheldrake) that the universe and time comprise an infinity of nested loops. Don’t believe me, rather refer to Heisenberg (Uncertainty Principle) and Godel (Incompleteness Theorum).

Ok. So in any case logic and rationality takes you nowhere certain. You can’t either prove or disprove God or no-God. If you find a Richard Dawkins or anyone else try to convince you otherwise – simply refer to Heisenberg and Godel – and tell them they are acting as evangelists not scientists, so they should preface all their statements with “I believe”.

So, then my personal beliefs. Well, firstly I get as far, logically, as saying there is “being”, or rather there is “something”. I wouldn’t go as far as “my” being – ie cogito ergo sum, because I think that presumes what “I” am. It does seem axiomatic to me that existence exists though. I used to run the argument that time is also axiomatic and that therefore you could define God as that which began being – one of those beautiful iterative proofs you get in mathematics (inductive reasoning). On that basis I used to “prove” God. This then turned the argument about God – into one of semantics. On that basis I would say that atheism is less logical that theism – because a theist “believes” in his/her version of God, whereas for atheism to work they would have to disprove every version of God.

Anyway, I’m not so convinced about time anymore – except as an illusion that frames what we perceive as reality. I do think, though, that God and existence tie together logically. Believe in existence and God is there. Our disagreements should be fought on definitions – “God sitting on a cloud”, “God as personalised”, “God as the numbers like speed of light that define existence”, “God as relatedness, connection”.

For me then, personally, which is the richer way to live? Surely enriched and joyful reality lies in our connectedness, in the shared smile, in the sharing of sorrow. That’s certainly becoming my deepening experience.

In any event – I can state definitely that I do NOT believe that atheism has rationality or intelligence on it’s side…

2 thoughts on “Do atheists own rationality?

  1. Excellent post. Your story has some similarities to mine; I was a practical agnostic for my early adulthood but could never bring myself around to Atheism. It was illogical. The Universe with its beauty and mathematical order, the coming together of matter from the initial energy of the Big Bang, the evolution of human culture and consciousness over the last 200,000 years all point to a Creator. I am not going as far to say that Atheism is illogical. The problem of evil is a strong argument against a benevolent, all-powerful Creator. However, I believe that the overwhelming evidence in favor of a Creator is compelling.

    For someone else with similar views, Laura Keynes made quite a stir in your neck of the woods in the UK this summer with her announcement of her religious beliefs. I believe her story of logic and hope resonates with a lot of people.

    http://wp.me/p3pJsV-nP

    Peace,
    W. Ockham

    • Thanks. You are right. I should not say that atheism is ill-logical. What I protest though is that it does not have logic on it’s side. New atheists project a message that logic proves no-God, that it is on their side. There I disagree. Thank you for connecting me to Laura Keynes site. I had not considered the benefits of debate stimulated by The God Delusion inter alia. My judgement has been clouded by Richard Dawkins falling from the pedestal I had put him on at university. I had mistakenly believed that his work on social evolution and discussion of memes was taking forward Teilhard de Chardin’s insights (evolution progressing into the noosphere).

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