Friday, August 9, 2013

Let me show you the world

Often when I'm in a discussion with a believer we will reach a point where they either refuse to acknowledge my points, or they simply don't seem to 'get' where I am coming from. Sometimes they are being dishonest. Sometimes they are willingly ignorant. But sometimes they don't seem to 'get it' because they really don't 'get it'. There are times when their inability to process a hypothetical, to admit any possibility of being wrong, or unwillingness to consider the use of their arguments for Christianity are just as valid if used for any other religion aren't due to an actual dodge on their part.

You see, as a former believer, I realize that many believers view the word far differently than I do. Yes, we have different conclusions and explanations for things, but I'm talking more about the way one views the world. I can tell you that when I was a believer, I viewed the world and interpreted everything much differently than I do now that I've embraced skepticism.

Most believers view the world through the same lens I did during my former period of belief. They (and I) would start with the initial assumption that their god and religion are true, and use that belief as a filter for everything else from that moment forward. I know that this filter exists, because I lived that life. When I encountered something that I felt fit with my religious beliefs, I would count it as a 'hit' and tally it in the column of things that I felt confirmed my faith and beliefs.

And the 'misses'? Well, they wouldn't make it past that security filter and would just be discarded and forgotten. Scientific evidence that contradicted the Bible? Swept into the dust bin without a care. Arguments from non-believers? Ignored and simply assumed to be false. If it didn't make it through me confirmation bias filter, it didn't count. Many believers do this same song and dance every single
Confirmation bias is action
day. But the thing is... I wasn't aware that I was doing that filtering of information, and only keeping what I liked. So it is no surprise to me when I find believers falling into that same trap. Yes, some are just being difficult to be difficult. But I feel that many are unaware of the filter they view the world through. For these people, I feel a careful and more forgiving approach is the better call.

But what about how I view the world now? How does my lens of discovery differ from my previous prescription under belief? I feel that there are two big differences. 1) I don't start from an initial statement of certainty. 2) No filter. I feel that this approach gives me the most honest and open way of viewing and coming to know the world.

This approach means that i look at all the data that the world has to feed me. I take that information and let is guide my beliefs rather than fitting it to my beliefs. Rather than accepting only the information I want to, I look at it all and listen to what it is telling me. By letting the data and my observations guide my beliefs, I am seeking what is true for the sake of truth. I want to know the truth no matter if it is convenient and reassuring or not. A seeking unclouded by my personal wants and desires.

So it confuses me greatly when a believer tells me that I just don't believe out of pride. That couldn't be further from the truth. If anything, the filter that many believers utilize is closer to clinging to beliefs out of pride or stubbornness than anything I am doing. I am not starting with a statement of 'God exists', or 'God doesn't exist'. Rather I set everything aside and ask the world to show me what is so. If that selfless approach is anything, it's humble. I admit that I don't know all, and am an endless search for knowledge and understanding. As the information points in a direction, so shall I follow.
Right now, this path has led me to atheism.

But like any skeptic, my views are always open to revision. If the data one day starts to pile up on the other side of the fence, I would certainly amend my beliefs. While the believer may view admitting that one could be wrong as a sign of weakness, I view it as a sign of strength and honesty. I know I could be wrong, and that knowledge keeps me from being complacent and continuously yearning to learn more. It means I am open to contrary information, and that I won't just ignore it as many a believer do. Give me a good reason, and I can be swayed. Sure, it may sting a little if I find out I was wrong. But I'll also be all the better having found the truth (god or no god). And when you get right down to it, the truth is all I want... no matter what.

-Brain Hulk

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