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Saturday, January 01, 2005

 An atheist confronts disaster

Jason Kuznicki nicely summarizes my own thoughts about the tragedy in Indonesia:
We find it meaningless to invoke God in the good times; we find it both meaningless and cruel to invoke him in the bad.

Atheists don't expect life to be fair, except insofar as we make it so. Look at nature: Does anything within it correspond, except by merest chance, to the human conception of justice? Is there any reason, discernible in nature, to expect that it should?

Atheists fight disaster with penicillin and iodine, with airlifted rice and, proactively, with seismic early-warning networks. This is not to say that believers reject such methods--on the contrary, they tend to be quite charitable about them. We unbelievers, though, hold that in life there is no reckoning--save the one we create for ourselves. The good is here, and now--or never. We embrace nature, in all its unfairness, and seek to change it. We hold that the height of human purpose is to redress the wrongs of mere nature, to bring it--at least as far as humans are concerned--into accord with the justice we imagine.


Blogger Barbara said...

I agree except maybe on the "seek to change" nature. I see the atheist response to nature more as a willingness to adapt our habitat structures to the possibilities of nature, and to, as you say, deal with the here and now of the unexpected. Maybe this is a different perspective; maybe a different way of saying the same thing (?).

9:53 AM  
Blogger Electro said...

I have a couple of questions. In the copied comments above there are a few things that are new to me in human thought. Nature is unfair? I am wondering in what way nature is unfair. Seeking to change nature, I hear more from you about the evil of changing nature and how we are destroying the enviornment. I think leaving nature alone is the better approach or we may find ourselves in a bigger mess than we are now. How does humanity go about correcting the "wrongs" of nature and bring it to our norms of justice? Is nature being used in a way I am unfamiliar with here? And who desides all of this if it were even remotly possible?

I simply don't follow his thought process. As an atheist I always saw the hipocracy in the actions of so called Christians and religious. I seemed to be the one more willing to help the person on the side of the road not fearing what might happen, always helping my friends and co-workers when they were in need, While I saw the "Christian" doing for himself. I didn't consern myself though with the larger problems of humanity, look at the condition of certain peoples as merely a problem they need to deal with in their enviornment, i.e. if your starving move to fertile ground. That is a little over simplified but you shoud get my point. As an atheist I didn't concern myself with trying to change nature but to enjoy it as long as I could, I even "worshiped" it to a degree, worship is a strong word but still accurate enough, after all I was posesed by it, living in it and it in me. And I loved conservation, so that all I have my prodigy could have. The last thing I would have thought of doing would have been to change myself. I have seen great devastaion from natural events first hand. I think they give us a great opportunity to show charity to all of mankind. I guess my last question is why do you think it is important to show charity to others, I have my reasons I am curious if they are simular to yours. And lastly I hope you will take time to answer me I am not trolling. Thanks for your good wishes to me.

11:04 AM  
Blogger Nanovirus said...

Good questions, all. The original post is not mine, so I can't address what the author means, I will just provide my own thoughts.

Nature is unfair in the sense that it lacks justice. If you ever watch a nature show -- especially those designed for younger audiences -- there will likely be a scene that unfolds like this: the predator is searching for its prey... prey is alerted... there is a brief struggle, and they prey escapes this time.The outcome seems "just" (as in justice): the poor (and usually cute) prey gets away from the big bad scary predator. Outside of tv, however, nature has no concept of justice. Perhaps this is also what the author means about "changing nature." That is, trying to create a more just world. Ask him?

As for your question of why it is important to show charity to others, my answer is humanistic: humanity is better off when we all show charity, and worse off when we do not. No deity required.

8:40 AM  
Blogger Ur Not Alone said...

I don't think that doing what is good for humanity is part of human instinct. Otherwise the people that are taking advantage of this tragedy must be inhuman. CS Lewis argues that if we only acted on instinct then we would have sex whenever we wanted to for example. There is something we have learned, some voice that tells us to think before we act. (Or at least strive to!) It is not instinct. What does this come from? Why is that some people do not think about how their actions affect everyone? Are they not human? Are they evil? Are they republican? (ha-ha) Whatever you call your it, a God or Humanism, there is something spiritual, something intangible that makes some of us want to do good.

2:47 PM  
Anonymous Lawrence said...

sheer arrogance.

11:11 AM  

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