The Passion of the Atheist - Introduction

Are emotional reasons for an atheistic perspective something we should evaluate? I for one think so.

An Explanation

There seems to be an inherent notion that atheism is simply about logic and reason. While there is some merit to this notion, it in and of itself seems to imply that this is all there is to the atheist position. But we are not Vulcans, and as such we do not operate on logic alone. No matter how much we would like to think of ourselves as logic driven and enlightened people, we cannot neglect the fact that we are human and that our emotions play an important part in our beliefs or lack thereof.

So what I would like to offer with this series is that there is indeed an emotional component to the atheist position and also that this emotional component is as valid a reason for disbelief as any logical reasoning. Over the course of this series I will put forward many emotional reasons that atheists have for our disbelief and go into as much detail as I can to describe not only the reasons for these emotions, but also the impact they have on us as individuals in coming to our position.

Introduction

I am a human being. There really isn't any getting around that. As such I am plagued, or possibly gifted, with these things called emotions. In scientific terms, these are nothing more than chemical responses within our brains. Chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin and many others cause us to feel in a non physical way. They bring us states of joy and happiness, sorrow and misery, anger and love, and a whole range feelings. Yet this scientific answer does little to explain the impact that these emotions have on us as individuals. We can quantify these things as simple chemical responses, but in truth this does not do them justice.

You see knowledge does not make up who we are. Education and schooling do not make you the person you are. What makes you "you" are the emotions you feel when examining the experiences you've had in life. I can state from my given knowledge that logically and scientifically speaking the birth of my children was not a miraculous or amazing event, but rather that it was no different than a germinated seed falling to the ground and growing into a new plant. Of course I don't actually think of my children's birth in this way at all. The reason for this is that I am human and I am an emotional being.

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When my children were born I felt joy and elation at seeing new life enter this world. I felt fear and anxiety as I thought of what they may have to endure in their lives and whether or not I was equipped and prepared to be a parent. I wasn't prepared or equipped by the way, but I've since come to understand that none of us really are. Our children are unique individuals with their own thoughts, dreams, and emotions and so there isn't any definitive guide to how to be a parent. The one thing I can tell you for sure is that they need your love, support, and the best guidance you can offer based on your own experiences. That's really all any parent can offer and we just have to hope that it's enough.

All these emotions are what have guided me as a father. For better or worse they have been inescapable, and while I have had to force myself into a logical perspective in some aspects, such as controlling my anger when my children do not behave the way I would prefer in order to restrain an urge towards violence as a means of enforcing obedience, for the most part my emotions rule the day in my journey of parenthood. So too I have come to realize that my emotions have played a pivotal role in my position as an atheist, just as emotion is most certainly the biggest factor in the theist's position as well. I can no more say that my position as an atheist is purely rational than I could say that my willingness to give my life in order to protect my children is purely rational.

Although my favorite atheist author is Richard Dawkins whose books The Selfish Gene and The Blind Watchmaker have influenced me greatly, my favorite atheist speaker and debater will always be the late Christopher Hitchens. Hitchens never showed the sort of emotional detachment that I see from men such as Dawkins. He was never afraid to show his anger and passion when stating his position. He was true to his emotions and never apologized for them. He was a human and he showed respect to the human experience by not trying to mask his emotions but instead to give them the weight they deserve. It is my intention with this work to do the same. Without any apologies for it.

Some will claim this is nothing more than an appeal to emotion fallacy, but I want to make it clear that this work is not meant to sway the theist by tugging at their heartstrings. Instead, this is meant for the atheist community as a reminder that we are still only human. It is meant to remind us that the human experience is built and thrives upon emotions. And it is meant to remind us that our emotions are indeed something that we should not refrain from bringing to the table. After all, the only honest reasons for one's belief in a god are in fact emotions, so if we are to debate one another on these issues we would do well to engage on common ground rather than trying to belittle the human experience by taking emotion out of the equation.

 

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