Friday, September 18, 2015

A Believer's Inquiry Part 1: Of Gods and Aliens. Your Participation Requested.

Occasionally I receive emails from believers asking my perspective on religious matters / matters of belief. I try to be has helpful as possible to aid them in understanding the atheist perspective.  The other day I received one from a believer and fellow author, Dick Gist.  We have exchanged two email discussions thus far. This is Part 1 of a two part discussion. 

I am posting our exchange here to solicit your active input as to whether or not my answers represent my readers' positions. Since atheists do not share anything in common except having no belief in God or gods, I am always cautious in providing input that may be mistaken for "doctrine" or "dogma", since we have no such thing. I'm hoping you will share your thoughts, objections, agreements, alternative views so as to give Dick (and I) greater insights to atheist thought.

PLEASE, share your input on my blog page by clicking on "COMMENTS" located at the end of this article on my blog site. Or by clicking on the following link (or copying and pasting it into your address bar) which will take you to this article's comments page. It would be greatly appreciated by Dick and I.  Thanks in advance.

Hello Bart,

Dick Gist here "You don’t understand the Bible because you are Christian" is my most current book.  I have a question I hope you might respond to. And as I ask I realize there probably is no one answer. When an atheist says he/she does not believe in God, does that mean the theistic god of Judaism and Christianity (a lot of we believers reject that one), or does it mean an atheist believes we are alone in the universe? I’m reminded of Buckminster Fuller’s words, “Sometimes I think we are alone. Sometimes I think we’re not. Either way the thought is staggering.”

Busy here, and enjoying periodic give and take with the fundamentalist element, one a relative who recently grieved that I’m on my way into eternal darkness. Almost enough to tempt one towards atheism.

Hope you are well. I suspect the colors might be beginning to change there.

Dick Gist

 Hi Dick,

So nice to hear from you.  I am familiar with your book and have read some excerpts. Nicely done.  Having read the Bible more than once myself, the KJV and NIV, and after years of debate with Christians, your premise that they don't understand the Bible because of its Jewish roots is dead on.  In fact, very few have even opened its cover,  by my experience. 

To your question:  I 'd say there is one answer, and it's relatively simple - atheists do not have belief in ANY God or gods, period.  I'm comfortable speaking for atheists when I say we take all gods to have been inventions of man - made in man's image, one might say - with all of man's most malevolent attributes (i.e. jealousy, anger, hostility, vengeance, barbarism)  and some of the good ones too...albeit with an even more intense level than the emotions and attributes of man... supercharged so to speak.

I have also yet to meet an atheist who does not totally dismiss the supernatural as well as God/gods, although nothing in the definition of atheist / atheism prohibits one from believing in ghosts, faeries, demons and leprechauns, et al, aside from one's common sense and innate skepticism. 

As for being alone in the universe I can only speak for myself and most atheists I know.  It is highly unlikely, in my opinion, for earth to be the lone planet to sustain life among the billions and billions of planets in the vastness of the universe.  The very fact that earth supports life is evidence that life can exist elsewhere, given similar conditions. Thus, no...we are not alone, in my opinion. [Note: this is much different than believers in God / gods, who believe God/gods exist based solely on faith, with no observable evidence or supporting examples.]  Whether that life / life form is more or less advanced than us is any ones guess.  

Hope that answers your question.  If you do decide to "come to the dark side" as we freethinkers like to joke, be sure to let me know so I can be among the first to congratulate you on your final stage of evolution toward modernity.

Yours in reason,


Bart Centre
AKA Dromedary Hump, "The Atheist Camel"


David S said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
NewEnglandBob said...

I agree with all you stated, Bart. I am amused that this theist makes a jump from "Don't believe in gods" to "Alone in the universe". It is equivalent to "You believe in a god, then you must like vanilla better than chocolate".

The argument from apples and oranges.

David S said...

I believe in no gods, ghosts, faries, bigfoot, or any supernatural beings. As for life elsewhere in the universe?

Picture yourself as being from another planet exploring the galaxy. You come across the Earth. You stop to observe. You see all of the problems that we have. Would you contact us? Hell! I'd probably blow the palnet up just so the can't develop FTL drive and contaminate the rest of the galaxy.

Anonymous said...

Is Dick asking about the ancient alien, Raelian, Erich Von Daniken version of "god/s"? I find this interpretation more viable, [emphasized] somewhat more conceivable, but still an extraordinary claim. I too do not believe we are the only life forms (intelligent or otherwise) in the universe. Whether or not other civilizations has or are visiting our little corner of the cosmos is another story.

Momma Moonbat said...

Bart very nicely covered the atheist view of deities and the supernatural, and his view of life on other planets closely mirrors my own, but I would like to expand on it some. First, I do not equate a belief that there is life somewhere besides Earth with a belief in deities. I do not believe Earth is the only planet to have life forms or some sort or another. While Earth life, in its present form, could not survive on other planets, that is not to say that life had not developed and evolved to survive and thrive under the conditions existing on other planets and and solar systems. We know so little about the universe, but it is completely arrogant for us to think that we are the sole occupants of the universe. said...

I was uncomfortable saying I was an Atheist because I believed in something. Now I just say I'm a follower of the Ancient Astronaut theory. It's amazing how many of my Atheist friends think I'm crazy. I just believe that we were visited in the past by other beings. Now, I have a question: Do you think a T-Shirt saying "I'm a God Fearing Atheist" would be funny?

Holey Hands said...

No gods? But, of course there is other life in the universe. The earth is its insane
asylum. All the UFO's we see are here dropping off new inmates!

Leland McCormick said...

Don't believe n any gods, but definitely think that there is other life in the universe.
Although the ancient alien thing is mostly hyperbole, it still makes more sense than the Bible.

Dromedary Hump said...

POSTED ON BEHALF OF "JON D", at his rewuest due to systems issues:

As an atheist, I lack belief in any gods. As to being alone in the universe, who knows? I'd hope that we weren't alone, but there are reasonable explanations as to why we might be, for all purposes, alone. Civilizations might destroy themselves as the reach the cusp of going interstellar. Look at our own species, as some are pushing for the chance to expand and live on other planets and travel space, and others seek to cause Armageddon to satisfy their beliefs.

Now, if by "alone" you mean some sufficiently advanced race or being that would for all intensive purposes be the equivalent of what many people would call a god, why would it matter? To such creatures, humans would be akin to a virus, capable of multiplying itself only to the detriment of our host.

Also, there are the possibilities that we may be ignorant enough to not be able to detect any other existing intelligent species. Heck, we might be in a preserve, surrounded and studied for being a primitive species on the way to becoming a type 1 civilization.

Genetically, we are just bipedal apes that learned how to make fire and work stone.

salliezoo said...

Agree with your explanation Mr. Hump...well done, as always.

Ronald McLaughlin said...

Your comments are p erfect!

Analog Kid said...

The Anthropocentric view that christians have...the audacity to believe that Homo sapiens are the be all, end all of all life in
The universe is a ridiculous premise for so many factual reasons. If "god's" Earth is so important, why are their planets
In our own solar system that are bigger than ours? If man was so important, why did "god" wait a few BILLION years, then put dinosaurs on the planet first, and allow them to live as the dominant species for millions of years?
Even a 10 year old child with average intelligence would conclude it "bat-shit crazy."

Carl said...

I agree with you spot on the only thing I might disagree with would be other life. While I think there could be life out there the likely hood of it being advanced life I think is minuscule. And the planets being hapitable like ours is even less likely as you can observe in our own solar system. And that would make any god belief even more ridiculous. For why if a god existed wouldn't he she or it make all the planets habitable for all of us to enjoy instead of squabble over very little land with limited resources? Wouldn't make any sense to me if there was a sky daddy! 😎

billofjazz said...

Who better to quote than Dr. Carl Sagan and our own Atheist Camel?

“Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people.” Carl Sagan

“The universe seems neither benign nor hostile, merely indifferent.” Carl Sagan

“Atheism is more than the knowledge that gods do not exist, and that religion is a mistake or a fraud. Atheism is an attitude, a frame of mind that looks at the world objectively, fearlessly, always trying to understand all things as part of nature.” Carl Sagan

Like many here, I practice; “FAITHICIDE: Killing religion with reason one superstition at a time.”

Dear Hump; Thanks for all you do to inspire those like me to see the world as a much better place than the way the religiously virused would have us believe,

Anonymous said...

Bart, your comments are "spot on". There are no gods and there are probably other life forms out there.

Curious Curmudgeon said...

Curious Curmudgeon says:

I think, Bart, that your comments were right on the mark. The short version as I see it is:

1) There are no gods. When you die the "life force" leaves your body and your "soul" or whatever you call it returns to the condition it was before you were born.

2) There may or may not be "intelligent" life elsewhere in the universe. In either case, point 1 (above) still applies.

tiNstAg said...

I agree with your reply, Bart.
I see no evidence to substantiate the existence of any "God(s)," or to support any concept of destiny, karma, spirit, miracles or other such nonsense. It is very likely, statistically, that conditions to support the evolution of many other life forms exist/have existed or will exist within the vastness of the universe. After all it's size is so vast our minds cannot grasp it - we even have trouble working out the relative positions of the planets in our own minuscule solar system.

RobD said...

As an atheist I don't believe in *any* supernatural creature. As someone else mentioned, the Erich Von Däniken version of aliens and their superior technology becoming our gods sounds far more plausible than the notion of an everlasting and eternal spirit in the sky.

I don't think we're alone "out there" at all. I think that could be counter to the faith in gods and the idea that we are special.
Evolution doesn't care where we are or what we are. If a ball of dirt has a little heat, a little water, a little sunshine, then maybe some organisms can evolve on it.
Every star is a sun like ours, with a potential habitable planet for some sort of organism.

In short, atheism provides me with the peace of mind that there are plenty of worlds out there with beings, even sentient ones. Something deities never can.

Michael Brennan said...

Hey Bart! You'r response was right on. You covered the assumption that atheist might think we're alone in the universe and the fact we don't believe in ANY supreme sky daddy more than adequately. You always seem to express my position way better than I ever could. I think I as an atheist simply have a naturalistic or rationalistic view of life free of supernatural and mystical elements.
Your fellow foxhole/bunker atheist, MTB

David Fisher said...

I agree with your answer. I do not believe in god(s) or any sort of supernatural. I doubt that this planet contians the only life in the universe. contains an article I wrote titled "God is a human invention".

David said...

Hi Hump,

I do not believe that any of the gods humanity has created exist and I do not believe that a deity is necessary to explain the origins of the universe that we observe today. Life is simply a chemical process that plays out within the universal laws of physics. I believe that any form of conscience or intelligence without the necessary chemical processes to sustain it can not exist therefore I do not believe in the supernatural.

As far as the question of life elswhere in the universe. I once had a general belief that the enormity of the universe should mean that simply by chance alone we are not the only intelligent life to exist in the universe. But over the last few years I have started to become captivated by the BBC documentaries produced by Profeesor Brian Cox. I'm not sure how well he is known in the US, but basically one of the ideas this has opened me up to is that whilst simple single celled life may well be inevitable anywhere in the universe anywhere that the conditions exist to support it, the evolution from simple life to complex life here on earth may well have been the result of a chance event that is a very rare occurrance in the universe indeed. A theory that is gaining respect is that complex life evolved on earth due to the chance invasion by one simple celled organism into another. Importantly the intruder must have survived the host's defences and when they replicated, they replicated together. If this is indeed correct, it appears that once this evolutionary bottleneck had been overcome, all hell broke loose.

So today I am open to the idea that the evolution of complex life in the universe may be an incredibly rare phenomenon indeed, but essentially we don't know. If any life exists anywhere other than Earth, we have not yet found any demonstrable evidence of it's existence.

But we are on the verge of launching telescopes so powerful that we may soon be able to peer into the atmospheres of distant Earth like planets, looking for the telltale signs of life.

Science is amazing.

Analog Kid said...

"Astronomers 2 billion life-supporting planets in our galaxy ALONE.

Dromedary Hump said...

POSTED ON BEHALF OF "TIM" AT HIS REQUEST due to systems problems.

I suspect that my rejection of religion, beginning with Catholicism, began as a tentative skepticism about supernaturalism in general. Every time my parents dismissed someone's unorthodox beliefs as mere superstition, I had to wonder about the limits of the concept.

If there were stages in my evolution as a realist, I'd be inclined to label them as confusion, fear, embarrassment, anger and relief. Losing faith in the existence of any god imaginable to humans was inevitable. The only unpleasant shock at the end of my gradual rejection of supernaturalism was the realization that I had worked hard to learn a lot of vocabulary (I was the class catechism champion) that referred to nothing real and, therefore, was not very useful, at least when it came to expressing my own mature thoughts.

Nonetheless, I still curse like a Christian. It is a habit that is god damned difficult to break!

NastyRiffraff said...

I'm with most of the commentors here. Bart just about covers it. I'd only add that the leap from non-belief to "alone in the universe" is and always has been puzzling to me. We're far from "alone" not only in the universe but on our own planet. The huge diversity of life in Earth is plain to see. BTW, I agree with Bart and others that Earth is not the only planet in the universe (and perhaps in our own solar system) to boast life.

Well written, both of you. Nice to see a sane, thoughtful believer.

Mac said...

When I was a child my parents took me to church regularly. It was a small protestant church. When I was restless, my mother would tell me that jesus was watching from behind the large cross stored in the balcony, or from behind the large crucifix hanging over the dais. Even then I'd think to myself, "doesn't he have better things to do?". Later, in my teens, I found out that my mother had been excommunicated when she left the local catholic church to marry my dad. I thought: "these religions don't really embody the man they espouse to be following.". Shortly after that I had what I call my "anti-epiphany" and decided to study every religion I could in search of the one that got it right. After years of study of, well I stopped counting after nearly 100, I didn't find the "one". In fact what I found was a lot of doctrines designed by a few to master the many. The gods of religions have many things in common. One thing that religions have in common is: they have no god to offer. Oh they purport to have one, but, when you say: "Hey bring it round for lunch sometime.", they come up some hoke about you'll know it when you feel it. Hmm...sounds more like a pick up line overheard near closing time in a bar...

In the end it boils down to: the evidence doesn't support the marketing claims. And, the god of the jews and xtians hasn't stopped by in a couple milenia to help.

Is there other life universe, most likely. Is it an unbounded creator of all things? I see no evidence that would lead me to that conclusion. I'm willing to change my mind...when it stops by for a beer.

(Not necessarily on topic for this discussion, but, take the time to read "God's Debris" by Scott Adams...interesting thought exercise. It used be free as a download pdf, about 100 pages.)

Charl said...

Hi Bart

Well put.

With regard to your joke about Christians coming "over to the dark side": I always, seriously, invite my Christian friends (fewer every year as those friendships erode and dwindle) 'to move into the light". I say this because they are lost in the darkness of superstition, myth, illogic and ignorance and have the chance to move into the light of truth, logic and reason.

Anonymous said...

Hump, I share you point of view. I do not believe in the supernatural; neither ghosts, goblins, spirits, souls, gods, ESP, etc.... I am open to the possibility of life evolving elsewhere in the cosmos. However, I don't believe any evidence exists of alien lifeforms having visited Earth as of yet.
Cheers, Will

Anonymous said...

Nice response, Bart.

The hardest two things for me to do was to throw away my bible and give up the idea of heaven and hell. It's the survival instinct in us that makes us want to live forever, thus the invention of religion.

Once, while driving, my mom hit a dog and continued driving. She said, "It doesn't matter. Animals don't have souls." This is the main problem with religion; people think they are superior to everything else on earth--to all other living animals, and disregard our planet (our home). And, their particular brand of religion is superior to all others. THEY are special!

All religions here on earth are man-made fantasies. Any holy book of choice is not proof of anything. There may be other life out there somewhere, but, so far, we haven't heard from them--so, who cares.


Anonymous said...

I personally don't believe any gods exist, nor do I believe in anything supernatural. I don't believe in magic. I believe it is highly likely other life forms exist somewhere in the universe. Regarding where did everything come from ?, I don't know, nor do I believe anyone else does. However, my gut feeling is that the basic elements of the universe always existed in some form and are constantly changing according to natural laws, like physics and chemistry. I don't believe in an afterlife, except that after death, the basic elements of our bodies still exist physically, but not in a living, conscious, or "spiritual" way. I believe morals are completely subjective according to the dictates of humans. I believe life has no inherent meaning except what we personally give it.

Dromedary Hump said...

THANKS TO ALL MY READERS, who have shared their thoughts and perspectives. Lot's to consider.

Many of you observed that having no belief in God/gods has nothing to do with the acceptance of the possibility of alien life forms elsewhere in the Universe...two different issues entirely. My assumption is that Dick was more likely asking if since atheists reject the God of the Christians/Jews, do we substitute some other "entity" to which we attribute creator or supernatural powers or "are we alone" in the universe?

In my reply I addressed the potential for natural / alien life forms EXCLUSIVELY and entirely, clearly explaining that if we are not alone, the only thing that would likely exist is a natural life form. Thus, "no, we're probably not alone, but no God/gods need apply, thank you." Thus, Dick did not imply aliens per se, but he open the door to discuss alien life by virtue of the "are we alone" inquiry.

In closing, thanks again. Your responses should be a font of info for Dick on some atheists' viewpoints. And to those of you who shared your experiences of an early religious life and overcame it, and those of you who did but didn't mention it...kudos on your escape to reality and modernity.


Tim said...

I've already commented on my disbelief in all things supernatural, but would like to add a note regarding the possibility, even likelihood, of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe (not that homo sapiens is a paragon of intelligence). When Hump posed this question for our consideration, I experienced a flashback to college lecture that I heard about 45 years ago during which a professor of archaeology explained a geological principle that has been around for almost two centuries, namely uniformitarianism (the spellchecker doesn't like this). Natural processes that are at play now have always unfolded in the same way in the past and will do so in the future. The applies throughout the universe. One such process is evolution. It's probable that, just as life as evolved on earth, the same thing has and will happen elsewhere in this vast universe, the result being forms of life whose creative faculties, at least in some instances, equal or exceed ours. If we don't self-annihilate, we may get to meet them. said...

Bart you are the best...
The mere fact that we exist should be a wake up call to us all. If we were planted by a "god" or did it the hard way, we are here. With all of the new technology that is finding planets with "habitable" atmospheres can we really even consider the option that we are alone.
If "god" was part of that and they come to visit we are screwed, remember he was a vengeful deity and since they come from another planet they would just as soon wipe us out that deal with us. Seriously why would they want anything to do with a species that hasn't mastered interstellar space travel?
If they come to us they are a lot more advanced than we could ever hope to be.
God was a nice fairytale to tell we as a whole were roaming the deserts or plains, a quick answer to everything, just blame god.
As a whole humanity needs to look to the sky and use the mental and technical experience of many generation to carve our presence in space.

enough ranting, Mr. Hump I want to wish you a happy whatever....
and remember that the universe is so vast that it is Friday somewhere...
p.s. I am a robot.... hahahahaha

Eric B. said...

Agree 100%. I, as an Atheist and Realist, reject everything supernatural (beyond the known physical laws of the universe). My time is better spent worshiping "the temple" - which I define as my physical body (starch-centric vegetarian diet, moderate exercise) and intellect (education, living in the present moment, meditation). Being kind and helpful to others as were able is the foundation upon which the temple is built. Peace my friends!