Bonus Post: Intro part 1
When I was originally writing my book, I had a substantial chunk of it done before I realized that it was not the direction I wanted to go. Apparently, this is quite common when writing books. Still, it would be stupid not to at least share some of it with you guys, especially the patrons, who have been generous enough to fund this crazy project we call The Good Atheist.
Every week, I hope to be able to show you some of those early notes, and I ask that those of you who read it to provide some critical feedback. Think of it as a way for me to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Remember, if you aren’t yet a patron, it’s only 20 bucks a year to become one, and apart from reading these special posts, you gain access to hours of Bonus radio shows, so don’t hesitate!
When asked the question of whether of not there is a God, there is the temptation to make a final and decisive pronouncement as to “His” existence. Just as nature abhors a vacuum, the human mind abhors uncertainty. The spectrum of answers to the question of god therefore takes on a panoply of explanations, each one different from the other. These speculations have been with us for quite some time. A discovery of an ancient serpent statue, dated some 70,000 years ago, suggests that the pertinent question over the existence of a higher power has been with us a long time. But much has changed since the days when we lived in cave dwellings, struggling valiantly for our food and living in small bands. Our understanding of the Universe has grown vastly since our humble days of hunting and gathering. We now know the Earth is part of a menagerie of planets in a solar system, not unlike the hundreds of billions in our galaxies, itself one of billions. Science has done much to humble us. It has also done a great deal of disservice to religious proclamations, which often make outlandish claims about the Universe which are not substantiated by any evidence whatsoever.
With that in mind, there is still a great deal that we do not know. Our understanding is like a candle in the dark (to paraphrase the great Carl Sagan); we have no idea what lies beyond the limit of the visible light created by it, but as the light shines with increased luminosity, the answers that are revealed are far more fascinating and incredible than our ancient ancestors could ever have imagined. It takes bravery to face the obscurity of our own ignorance. Like a child cowering with fear in his bed, we are tempted to see faces in the shadows; monsters waiting in the darkness. Often, motivated by our fears and superstition, we create outlandish stories to attempt to explain the mystery of nature. These fables are usually centered around us in some way, all products of our creative and imaginative minds. Every culture in human history has invented complex mythologies and stories about the inner workings of the Universe, and the overwhelming majority of them are shunned and essentially ignored. Believers in Ra or Odin are almost non-existent (although a very fringe portion of the population still chooses to worship forgotten gods). It is only a historical accident the main religions of Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism are still popular today. There is no reason to believe these religions will continue to thrive in a thousand years; historical evidence of other religions suggests that like the Greek and Roman gods, Jesus, Vishnu and Muhammad will, over time, lose their cultural importance.
When we attempt to understand the Universe through science, the conclusions we draw should not be ignored in favor of superstition. Some of us are more ready than others to accept objective reality, especially if we are not bound by powerful religious doctrines. This is why I have decided to write this book. I want to demonstrate that being an atheist allows a person the unique opportunities to expand their own understanding of the Cosmos, uninhibited by the dogma of religion. Atheists are also free to tackle modern ethical questions and dilemmas, unbound by the savage laws of the Bronze Age .
If you have picked up this book, then you are probably either an atheist, or are thinking about becoming one. If, however, you are a deeply religious person who just happened to pick it up due to sheer curiosity, then I would recommend you put this book down. It is not for you. This is not a matter of misplaced pride or a statement of your intelligence. Odds are you possess an affinity for knowledge, and the instinct of curiosity. I know of many religious folks who read atheistic literature in an attempt to test their faith. If you’ve read the works of superior authors and still cling to your primitive and dogmatic belief system, I highly doubt my little book will have much of an influence on you. If you believe knowledge can be magically ordained from above, you’ve already failed the most basic skeptical analysis needed to be an atheist. This book, therefore, is not for you. You’ll want to head over to the spirituality and religion section; they have plenty of books by people who just make things up without any concern of having to prove what they claim.
(to be continued)