Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Jesus Stole My Classmates; or, Why the fundies were right about atheists wishing violence towards believers, but for the wrong reasons

Today's thoughts:

Uni's back! Amongst the three subjects that make up my delightfully paltry timetable, I find myself studying a subject called God, Freedom and Evil. Its outline presents it as a unit which seeks to understand how the concept of God can interact with the seemingly contradictory notions of freedom and evil. Duh.

So in signing up for GFE, I was excitedly anticipating a subject in which we could definitively demonstrate that faith is both self-refuting and an undesirable and destructive facet of our society. In my wildest homework-related fantasies (which are entirely a fiction, I can assure you) I imagined printing off these very blog posts and submitting them to an admiring (and, somewhat irrelevantly, buxom) tutor.

But as you have no doubt concluded, dear reader, this was not flawlessly imitated by reality. Instead, I found myself in an oversized class of some twenty-five drips who at no point during their mindless pontificating stopped to question what they or anyone else was saying. Imagine, if you would, a discussion on the nature of the Easter Bunny. As with any unfalsifiable hypothesis, we have absolutely no evidence as to what traits God - sorry, the Easter Bunny - could possibly have. So what did we do? Spent the hour making shit up and treating it as if it was self-evident fact, whilst everyone else nodded sagely at just how self-evident it was that the Easter Bunny works in ways too mysterious for his creation to contemplate but can choose to reveal wisdom to certain humans to counteract the evil that he did not create, obviously, but, like, somehow allowed to slip in because we can't comprehend what God's intentions and actions are. Which we know. Because we don't.

Lest at this stage you think that I'm simply assuming God's non-existance to be a foregone conclusion, and not giving believers a chance to sway me with their no doubt superior knowledge of religion and its apologies, let me give you an example of how much of a shit this lot gave about any viewpoint besides their own foregone conclusions. The tutor asked whether anyone knew anything about concepts of God outside of Judeo-Christian traditions. I asked whether Islam counted (it does; both Islam and Christianity are Judaic sects) and was told it doesn't, which made me the only person in the class with knowledge outside of the J-C paradigm.

And what made it worse was that there were a couple of atheists in there with me. However, they spent the whole time nodding along with everyone else and declaring how important it was to respect people's faith and that everyone's opinion is valid and true for them. Well, it's not and it's not. Furthermore, people's opinions and beliefs are not private, regardless of whether they proselytise or not. Quite apart from the day-to-day interactions which are going to be shaped to a lesser or greater extent by those beliefs (the further away from reality they are, the more they are obviously going to impact me), we happen to live in a democracy. That means that these beliefs are directly shaping the society in which I and others who do not share the beliefs live. Don't like gay marriage? Put people in power who will prevent it from happening. Enjoy disenfranchising minorities? Vote for the party that endorses it (the Liberal Party).

My ultimate frustration with this subject - and here I will admit that I may be judging too early, only one hour into the entire course as I am - is that it exists in a place of learning and human betterment, yet seems to promote and encourage those social forces which would undo these cornerstones of our society. Nihilist that I am, I place great store by society and thus the foundations which hold it up. It's all that stands between us and oblivion. The acute rage I felt yesterday after class had ended was at the moronic beliefs that are thrown around all too freely; the ones that are basically concerned with the right to invent any crap you like and subject your fellow citizens to your self-satisfied ignorance and prejudices.

If anyone wishes to disagree with my assertions, I'm all ears. Challenging ideas and acknowledging intellectual failures is a great way to keep us out of the dark ages.

TL;DR - One tutorial in and I already hate my classmates. I've gone into a subject at uni anticipating a rationalist's paradise and come out saying