Sunday, 4 January 2009

On close-mindedness

Wow, I haven't updated this thing in ages. This is probably due to that massive downturn in the amount of insomnia I've been suffering lately; seeing as how insomnia is the number one cause of content being generated on this blog. Well, here I am in the middle of the night, after having - possibly unwisely - watched some of those films that I got in the January/closing down sales back-to-back and late into the early hours (including the weird combination of watching Aliens vs Predator: Requiem followed by the 2007 version of Hairspray) and it seems like it's time for another post, perhaps another atheist vignette.

One of the most ludicrous arguments against atheism that I've ever heard, and that I also keep hearing, from numerous sources and in numerous ways, is that atheists are all incredibly close-minded, that we're just so completely closed off from any ideas other than those immediately apparent to our limited senses that we just can't see the bigger picture, we just can't open our minds to the grand, supernatural reality of things, that if we just all stopped being so incredibly myopic and intellectually shallow we'd see the awesome reality that is the existence of god(s).

This, of course, is the most bullshit piece of reasoning I've ever heard.

I think the particular iteration of this argument that got me riled up enough to actually come out and write this post is the one that I heard expressed by this guy (little note to that guy: the fact that you happen to disagree with atheism does not technically in any way make atheism "self-refuting.") Still, this post is going to deal with a more general version of this argument than the one that guy presents. This isn't just a response to that one particular little vid, but that vid sure did make me angry.

At first it's easy to see the appeal of this whole "atheists are close-minded" argument. After all, atheists do not typically appear to be open to the idea of the existence of god(s) any more than they are to the idea of the existence of werewolves or wood nymphs. This must surely mean that they're just close-minded, right? They're just all Scullys, all totally closed off to the idea of anything existing beyond what they can see, hear, smell, taste and touch, right? All they need is some nice, religious Mulder to show them the way, right? Wrong. Atheists are probably some of the most open-minded people you'll ever meet, as they are typically the kind of people who embrace scientific reasoning, which highly values an openness and acceptance of all sorts of information. The truth is, if tomorrow, someone found absolute, indefatiguable proof that evolution is wrong, then all of those godless, anti-creationist scientists would have to say "well, what do you know, looks like we were wrong" and accept this new information. This is the way scientific reasoning works: by being fluid and succeptable to change. After all, when was the last time you went to your doctor only to be told that you were having an attack of bad humours? Doctors and scientists are not so stubborn as to believe in such outdated theories. Scientific theories are always only as good as they need to be until new evidence comes to light.

Take religious thinking on the other hand. Religious thinking is stubborn, totally resistant to change, revision or acceptance of new information that might actually broaden one's horizons somewhat. If someone believes that the first man was constructed out of the dust of the Earth itself, then no amount of reasoning will change that person's mind. To paraphrase a classic Jonathan Swift quotation, you cannot reason someone out of a position that they did not get into by way of reason.

Religious thinking is the ultimate in close-mindedness. It is "my religion is right and yours is wrong." People may be accepting of people of other religions, but they're really not being very good religious people if they give other religions equal weight in their heart of hearts. Being religious requires being biased. Atheism, on the other hand, views all religions with an open mind. The atheist says, "ok Hindus, Jews, Christians, Muslims, etc" (sorry to brush off so many religions with a mere "etc" there, I feel like Rev. Lovejoy when he did that whole "or miscellaneous" thing) "come to me and tell me what your religion has over every other one, that makes yours more sound and reasonable over all of the others" and of course, all the religious mind can offer in response to that is a pathetic "well, it's obvious, isn't it? Mine is just right and the others are just wrong!" In the eyes of the impartial atheist, all religions are of equal validity.

Open-minded does not mean automatically being willing to accept without question the existence of angels, demons, fairies or whatnot. Open-mindedness is when one does not stubbornly stick with outdated modes of thinking that have been shown to be lacking when compared to actual evidence and knowledge of the world and the way that it works time and time again. When the world has been shown to not fly through space by riding on the back of a giant turtle, it might be time to give up on that belief, rather than being close-minded and refusing to let any alternative idea into your head.

This is, as these things so often do, turning into a rant. Still, I'm just so sick of being called "close-minded" because I do not accept the existence of things that are literally impossible. It's far more close-minded to believe that your impossible set of beliefs has some sort of special status that elevates it above other people's impossible beliefs, as you're just showing a clear bias and unwillingness to accept information that really is just as valid and acceptable as what you're already going on. To paraphrase someone else, all people are atheists of a sort, in that they vehemently deny the existence of thousands of gods, atheists just take it one step further.

I am an open-minded atheist. I accept all possibilities, but naturally, I gravitate towards those that actually seem grounded in the reality that I know and that we all share. I would gladly accept any religion, if I believed that any religion were founded on greater validity than "well, isn't it obvious this one is the right one?" Not if you're being open-minded about it, no.

Heh, maybe I'll write about something less heavy next post, I promise. Maybe Sinfest again. Or hey, maybe Penny Arcade.

1 comment:

lydiasings said...

*stalk* I have already said so much on this subject and I'm sure more will be added at another point.

Was mostly just interested in seeing what sort of stuff you say over here. I have a blogger but hardly ever use it and it's in a username that's still fairly secretive. If I use it more often and interestingly you may be informed ;)

Fucking hell. Life is just getting worse before it gets better atm. Hope you're offline due to resting rather than the 'bleurgh' everybody seems to be having. *hugs*