- Published on Monday, 11 June 2012 06:50
- Written by John Draper
- Hits: 1870
Dan Dennett was one of the speakers at the April 2012 Atheist Convention in Melbourne Australia. He spoke about a number of subjects including the Clergy Project but mostly he spoke about the idea that you might not know you are an atheist. He started by talking about a survey done in England where the vast majority of people said they were Christian - this despite the fact that few do anything about it. They rarely go to Church and many don't even believe fundamental Christian beliefs such as that Jesus is the son of God. From this, you have to think that they are nor really Christians although they may believe they are! So how can people decide they are Christians or not? Maybe they are atheists but don't know it? Dan lists a number of questions people can ask themselves to help determine that.
- You might be an atheist if you do not believe Jesus was the son of God - you might say "well, he sort of is, but not really".
- You might be an atheist if you don't believe God actually listens to our prayers let alone acts on them.
- You might be an atheist if you don't think "God is always on our side". Believers might think he supports our side in wars, football games, in fact anything.
- You might be an atheist if you don't think God created all creatures great and small .
- You might even be an atheist if you think God means some divine, benign "force" out there. [Dan once told an interviewer that he did believe in such a force. The interviewer started to think there was some hope yet for Dan and asked what Dan thought that was. Dan said he called it "gravity"]
- You might be an atheist if you DO believe that God is a concept in some people's minds which can enrich their spirit and inspire them. This is no doubt true although there are better ways to get enrichment and inspiration.
Of course the concept of God is not the same as the existence of a God as Dan explains.
It is useful to be able to distinguish between wishful thinking and genuine belief - there are many people who have a hard time telling the difference. Like Dan, I think it's important for people to at least think about the subject. Just because you were told as a child that something was true, does not, by itself, make it true. Science has tackled the problem with its scientific method and a collection of processes that cause scientists to think through every question, theory and conclusion. Religion has no such methodology.
As Dan points out, the Pope is a smart man - he too must have questioned the things he says are true. Does he really believe them? He may not even know himself and we'll certainly never know. Catholics (and other faiths) are required to "profess" their faith. That is, to say they believe out loud. But like society requires white lies to avoid offense, can we really know when people are being truthful?
But watch Dan talk about these things - he's much better at explaining than I am.