your book vs. my universe, a science writer's statement of purpose

This is a post from my popular science blog, Weird Things which I thought would be of interest to Atheist Nexus's community since I'm trying to summarize the atheist/agnostic stance on life and provide a rebuttal to the theist charge that atheists and agnostics are angry and bitter because we have a very limited worldview. Here's the post in its entirety...

I periodically get asked why I write about creationism and creationists and try to use a scientific battering ram on people who don’t want to listen anyway. Why bother? They don’t care what you say. They have their holy books, they already think you’re either a lunatic destined for hell or a lying cultist of a scientific religion. And that’s true. Every time I’ve tangled with creationists in a public forum I would consistently get accused of lying or sinking to personal insults while being called an atheist the same way a doctor would diagnose someone with developmental disabilities. So why would I bother?

The answer is simple. Creationists aren’t a small fringe. They’re not a small movement. They’re organizations with tens of millions of people taught from birth to sympathize with them. Many of these people think that the separation of church and state in the Constitution is a joke and it is their duty to introduce religion back into public schools, colleges and institutions at any cost before everyone catches the plague of secularism and is sent to hell. It doesn’t matter that the most vocal creationists don’t even know what the theory of evolution is about. They don’t care. They don’t want to know. In their minds is a simple formula. Evolution = atheism = bad = hell and eternal torment. End of story. Science? Evidence? Ha! What a joke. Here’s a book you filthy sinner, now go away and take your evolution and Big Bang with you.

You don’t have to imagine these people being elected to government offices and deciding how children are taught, by who and how. They’re already doing it. When 7 out of 10 teachers aren’t fluent in science and yet are assigned to teach science classes and school boards are staffed by people who think that the theory of evolution is really the Gospel According to St. Darwin, let’s face it, there’s a huge problem. How do we build a modern economy when our children are hit on the head with thick theological tomes so religious fundamentalists and zealots can feel a bit better about themselves and how many people they’ve “saved?” When civilizations stop moving forward, when knowledge becomes lost or suppressed it’s known as a Dark Age. We’re not even close to one yet, but creationists and their allies are certainly trying to slam on the breaks and where they can, reverse the march of progress.

They feel fully justified in doing so because after all, it’s their belief. Oh, you believe something different? Ok, let’s have a battle of beliefs. They win. Their beliefs trump yours because they’re theirs. That and they can complain about being prosecuted even though everyone is ready and willing to back over backwards to satisfy them on cue. Am I upset and frustrated? You bet. But it’s not because I hate God or feel small and insignificant with no connection to the divine, just waiting to become worm meat after my death so I’m bitter and angry. In fact, I and everyone on this planet are part of something much bigger than we can ever imagine from a scientific point of view and it’s the religious fundamentalists who seem to be the really bitter and angry ones as more and more people realize it and adjust their personal spirituality accordingly.

I, like all humans, am a product of matter forged in the nuclear furnace of a star. I’m a part of a vast, possibly infinite universe that’s been able to evolve eyes with which to see and a brain that can grasp what’s going on. I’m not inseparable from the universe. I’m made by it. I’m a little bit of something resembling order emerging out of the chaos. We all are. When we look up and try to think a little about where we are and our place in the universe, we have unlimited possibilities and incredible opportunities. And I’m the little, angry, bitter “atheist” who thinks he’s nothing at the beginning and will be nothing in the end? I have the universe. We all do. What do they have? A book of religious and political punditry we’ve all agreed to consider at least somewhat true as not to offend the most vocal zealots among us.

You know what, they can keep their book and I’ll keep the universe. I think I have a much better deal that way. What I’m really angry and frustrated about is denial and its proselytizing for the sake of denial and not having to expose yourself to something new or different. Humans have opened their eyes and took a peak outside their cradle. If you want to stay back, cover yourself in a blanket and play with the same toys, that’s fine. Your choice. Just don’t hold people like me back with laws, regulations or campaigns that seek to bludgeon our curiosity into submission.

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Comment by Talibangelist on January 21, 2009 at 8:19am
Great post. The way I over-simplify the idea is that if you take away god nothing happens, all of us atheists are living proof of this fact. Take away science on the other hand and we all die. The interesting point about my statement is that you cannot even try to take away science. It happens. It is there whether we want it to be or not. I think Laplace said it nicely upon submitting his model of the universe to Napoleon, who had commissioned it:

Napoleon: You have written this huge book on the system of the world without once mentioning the author of the universe.
Laplace: Sire, I had no need of that hypothesis



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