Yesterday I got to meet two of the great thinkers within the atheistic camp: Lawrence M. Krauss and A. C. Grayling. I had short discussions with both of them regarding religion and philosophy and both used very strong and certain language regarding religion, referring to any sort of religious belief as “bullshit”.
I walked away feeling really empowered and thrilled. ‘Those superstitious people,’ I thought to myself, ‘they believe in such superstitious BS, gods, free will, prayer – what’s wrong with them?’
This thought felt so good that I had to stop to examine what’s going on. I soon realised that I have just been biased by a thirst for certainty to jump to conclusions that I myself did not believe in. It felt so good to hear two intellectual giants validate my beliefs with certainty and dismiss all others as BS. For once I could let go of the ever torturing uncertainties and self scepticism and I could just be happy and sure about my beliefs.
But I quickly realised that that’s an illusion. Perhaps Kraus and Grayling have reached a level of certainty, or perhaps they are using strong language for emphasis, but for me, certainty is far far away, and as much as it sucks, that is still the truth.
Here are two ways of expressing the very same beliefs:
1. The notion of a God who intervenes in nature and who has a plan is quite frankly ridiculous. No intelligent person can feel comfortable with such a belief and whoever does hold such a belief is being superstitious, delusional and silly.
2. The notion of a God who intervenes in nature and who has a plan is philosophically highly problematic. We do, however, see many intelligent people holding these beliefs and one must wonder why that is. It would be interesting to learn about their justifications or the underlying reasons that drive them to hold these beliefs. Perhaps there are some arguments out there in favour of it, who knows?
Using the language in the first paragraph is really thrilling and perhaps it has its purpose from time to time, even if only to give in to temptation and to let off steam. However, the language in 2 is the honest and humble approach that should be used when debating and thinking with the intention of coming closer to the truth.
I wish that the world was simpler and as a physics student, reducing complex systems to simple laws and equations is what we do all the time, but reality is not a text book scenario and we must learn to live with complexity and embrace uncertainty.