Wrong Hand

This one has been sitting in the queue so long that I don’t remember exactly how I came across it. I just remember that Mr. Hand has said something profound…and misguided.

A while back, I changed my religion. I used to be an Atheist. Now, I’m an Evolutionist. It isn’t that I’ve suddenly started believing in non-existent beings. My position on things metaphysical is essentially unchanged. I still uncategorically deny the existence of any deities. I still think that people who believe in deities (or just one deity) are incorrect in their beliefs. However, I’ve realized that that particular infection with an erroneous notion isn’t an especially damaging one. This is a kind of cheerful state of affairs. The simple fact is that belief in a deity is simply not even vaguely important to any of the things that really do matter. (emphasis mine)

In a sense, Mr. Hand is right. (Not what you might expect a God-blogger to say, right?) Believing in a deity (of whatever sort and/or multiples thereof) is not especially damaging to anyone provided that the belief doesn’t inform the way a person lives (and that the belief is in fact incorrect).  You might refer to this as “functional atheism”. Instead, what really matters are the specific beliefs that one has about the supernatural being(s) in question.

Without any appeal to some kind of authority, Mr. Hand says  that “Being mostly nice and often thinking carefully are important.” In order to keep things moving, lets agree and say that these two things are important. Who exactly should a person be nice to and what precisely should that person think carefully about? There are some in the world who believe that the deity to whom they belong requires that they should only be nice to other believers. Conversely, those people do not believe that it is important to be nice to non-believers. Furthermore, there are some people who believe that the deity in question is pleased whenever they are not nice to unbelievers. In fact, some people believe that their deity is pleased whenever its followers kill unbelievers. And so we have an example of how belief in a deity generally and specific beliefs about that deity are “especially damaging”. After all, I’m confident that Mr. Hand would agree that killing people who do not share one’s beliefs is not being nice.

I’m also confident that Mr. Hand would agree that the killing of “unbelievers” is not the product of careful thinking. However, I would disagree.  In fact, it is my experience that we deists have to do some very careful thinking to either justify our un-nice actions or to execute them. This is particularly true of those deists who believe that their deity will distribute some kind of reward or punishment at some point in the future based upon their actions; such people tend to think very carefully more than merely often.

Obviously, what people believe about God, god and/or gods is more than vaguely  important to the two things that Mr. Hand says are important, that matter. Consequently, we can guess that such belief (erroneous or not) is important to other things that matter as well.



Filed under Religion

3 responses to “Wrong Hand

  1. Hi. I like changing my name every once in a while. I was going my Mr. Hand when I wrote the thing you quoted.

    Thanks for thinking about what I wrote. Before arguing about it, I’d like to point out that the name of my blog is “Discussions and Nonsense.” I like to put nonsense in what I write there.

    I am quite pleased that you noticed that I presume the non-existence of any deities. Nobody else has pointed out that flaw in my argument.

    Within my atheistic framework, I don’t think I need to appeal to an authority for what is important. I can claim that what is important is what is important to me. In fact, I’m a bit concerned that an appeal to an authority begs the question. How has one determined that the authority is an important enough authority on importance?

    You have politely brushed aside the fact that I have not defined ‘nice’. Thanks. That makes things easier.

    However, I think you’ve missed my main point. You’ve pointed out that sometimes people who believe in a deity use that belief to do some incredibly mean things. But, atheists have done similarly incredibly mean things and justified them to themselves within their atheistic belief system. So, as far as niceness versus meanness, a belief in a deity makes a difference is not significant enough to determine whether a person is nice or mean. From my own experience (i.e. purely anecdotal and hence highly questionable evidence), even the fractions of nice and mean things done don’t seem to depend on the beliefs of the people doing the nice or mean things.

  2. amtog

    First let me apologize.

    I’m sorry. You’re comment ended up in the spam pile, which I never check. The only reason I checked this time is because there was an exceptional amount on the counter. Consequently, I found your comment.

    Second, thanks for the comment.

    Third, I think I got your point. In fact, it was so clear and concise that I can’t even paraphrase it adequately.

    I also think my main point remains: specific beliefs about deities (or the lack thereof) guides human behavior in specific (and especially) damaging (and beneficial) ways.

    Thanks for coming by…whoever you are today!

  3. Yeah. You are right that the particulars of beliefs do manifest themselves.

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