Sunday, November 22, 2009

Skepticon II

For the longest time I found the notion of an atheist movement to be odd. While I have been an atheist for a long time now, I thought people found meaning in religion, and it didn't seem like to nicest thing in the world to go around removing people's meaning. Further, it seemed odd to form organizations around the idea that God Is Dead. I wasn't always as certain of this as I am now, but I figured that anyone who bothered to actually continue looking for truth would at least be able to rationalize one way or the other, and while I was sure that Atheism was the right conclusion, at least theism offered a structure for individuals to tackle moral problems.

I no longer feel this way. At least entirely. I still don't feel terribly great about poking holes in people's beliefs, but there are good reasons to believe things and bad reasons to believe things. Further, while I am intrigued in continuing the philosophical debate on the existence and nature of God, as well as everything that might entail, I am certain now that a movement for atheists is a good thing. I was convinced of this by Skepticon II.

The main problem, as I hinted to above, that I had with the New Atheists was that I perceived it as a destructive movement as opposed to a generative movement. I knew that God did not equate to goodness, and took offense when someone thought I couldn't be good because I didn't believe in God, but it seemed supremely silly to me to gather together to destroy the beliefs of others. Quite simply, this isn't the case. If Skepticon II is a good sampling of what the New Atheism has to offer, then while I disagreed with individual's that spoke there, that was a common theme amongst many people. And my impression was that this sort of disagreement and debate was encouraged. This means that, while we all agree on the non-existence of God, there are still questions and problems that we all still have and disagree on.

So, while it seems that Atheism would be destructive, it was the exact opposite: It was generative to the point that everyone had a point of contention with something which was a widely positive experience to myself -- especially because everyone there never once listed "The Bible" as a good reason to do something.

Further, while I have a group of atheist friends that I generally hang around, I'm a fairly quiet and complacent fellow who doesn't speak out to many people. While I enjoy and very greatly value this group of friends, it was also fun just to hang around people who are relatively similar to myself in their general metaphysical world view and to feel that I wasn't fundamentally alone. There was a community of people who wanted to bullshit about science, literature, music, politics, teaching, philosophy, alcoholic drinks, often all in the same conversation. This was something else that wasn't stated explicitly, but that seemed I noticed: The New Atheism is an intellectual movement. The speakers all had an intellectual discipline, and they shared their specialty in their speeches -- something I highly enjoyed. I especially enjoyed seeing science being shared glibly with anyone who chose to show up. Further, the science was embraced by those who attended (at least, those whom I talked to). It was not shunned as some hum-drum boring routine you have to go through in order to pass a class. (Sorry for the minor bias towards the science, but it is what I study. I also enjoyed the philosophers and historians, as well as the debate on the existence of God)

So, it is a generative movement, and it is a movement that actually values intellectual labor (something desperately lacking in my experience). Further, it's filled with enthusiastic individuals who enjoy finding like-minded people (which, really, who doesn't?). I find that hard to object to. Thank you to all who set it up and all the speakers who came.

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