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It's Obvious

By Carl S ~

Every Sunday morning, WizenedSage and I get together in the cafe to talk. (We don't think about the fact that the Enlightenment started from such meetings, but it's the same tradition.) Since we're both hearing impaired, we must be louder at times than the conversations around us. Sometimes, someone who’s overheard us comes over to comment, to agree, and, of course, to add personal input. Recently, a man who owns property next to me sat down to say he's been reading Christopher Hitchen's book, "God Is Not Great," and others. He's concluded that now he understands what we're talking about. On the non-existence of God, he said that it's "obvious."

There are innumerable believers who will counter, "It's obvious there is a God." Unlike Hitchens arguments, their "proof" is repeating what they've been told, not what they've considered from all sides of the yes/no arguments. They'll say, "I know in my heart there is a God" and that means everything, so shut up, case closed. But you can say, "I know in my heart there isn't." Positive one plus negative one equals zero. As for feelings? Feelings work in many ways, and feeling one way or another can be just as "valid." Is that the "proof" they're offering? Nobody‘s going to find out what's true or not, going wholly by feelings, or by the believer's habitual considering only one side of the argument while dismissing the other. These things are so obvious, to unbelievers. The typical believer, though, gets visibly upset by our simply denying the existence of a god. Many are content to treat us as ignorant or immoral, while "defending" a god, from a position of "sincere ambiguity."

The May 14 edition of Science News has an article: "‘Dirty’ mice better than lab-raised mice for studying human disease." It's too long to quote entirely here. The gist of it has to do with lab mice versus mice exposed to human pathogens, and mice in the wild. Lab mice are raised and exist in sterile conditions, ergo, whenever medical trials are applied in the lab on them, the results may not reflect real-life results because mice in the wild, exposed to human pathogens, build up resistances common to mice and men, so the results will include those resistances. This insight changes the playing field. Immunologist E. John Wherry of the University of Pennsylvania says that the finding "is one of those things that once you know it, it’s incredibly obvious." So an atheist, I think, is just a person who admits, after the evidence is investigated without fear and trembling, eye-to-eye, sincerely and objectively: there just isn't any God. (Although there are men "behind the curtain pulling levers," as our guest pointed out.)

I remember: A genius is a person who tells you what you already know. Sometimes I have to think about that. How often have we heard someone say, "Of course, it's obvious.", or "Why didn't I think of that?" One of my co-workers would sometimes remark, whenever I explained my solution to a problem, "No shit, Sherlock." You'd think he wouldn't counter that way unless he thought of it first, but what if he didn’t? I never thought to confront him about it.

Your atheism, if it's arrived at from thought and evidence, and not resulting from something you're born with and don't think about, has integrity. What do we mean by "integrity?" One engineer, describing a bridge collapse, tells us it came undone due to a failure of "structural integrity." The dictionary defines “integrity" as: “1. Steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code. 2. Soundness. 3. Completeness, unity." We may speak of integrity as soundness of mind, unity of mind and body. We shall say, working together as an organism for the common survival of all components.

When it comes to a "strict adherence to a strict moral or ethical code," notice that no religion is involved. In fact, religious beliefs can be cracks in the integrity of the whole, compromising the entire structure. To eliminate them entirely is necessary to individual moral survival. There's no integrity to the patches and excuses and doublethink that theologians and clergy constantly employ to keep their faiths seemingly intact.

All of these things should be obvious, shouldn't they? Or does it take faith to believe that, obviously, the world is flat?