Comedian Adam Carolla once said “I know everything because I know nothing.” By this he meant that his lack of parental involvement and disinterest in school led to a kind of philosophical blank slate which allows him to assess reality on reality’s terms. He claims the opposite of indoctrination in which every opinion is fully his own, made from scratch. I’m sure this is hyperbole, but I believe that he is more like he describes than the average Joe. In the same way, I came into blogging about atheism with little to no knowledge about theology, philosophy or, well, atheism.
I didn’t think this lack of knowledge was a good thing, mind you. Once I realized secular thought was a real option, my first instinct was to quickly build a knowledge base. I listened to the audio version of God Is Not Great and The God Delusion. Here’s an atheist confession for you: I didn’t like either. I’m probably not supposed to say this, but I’m not a Hitchens fan in general. I’ve since given Dawkins a second and third shot and enjoy his books on biology and evolution immensely. The Selfish Gene may be my favorite science book, but I’m still not interested in his editorializing. I generally desired the data and the consensus interpretation--the science, not opinion. For this reason, I discounted philosophy for a long while, which I saw as a field of speculation.
When I started debating religious apologists I really didn’t know what apologetics meant. I've since found this to be a cliched joke, but I actually thought they were going to tell me how sorry they were about their church’s policies. When they presented their arguments for God, I never needed to look up how to refute them. The flaws were usually glaring when looking outside of their indoctrinated box. When in doubt, I only needed to turn their own reasoning back on itself which made any defense of my retorts a delegitimization of their original premise. Many of these theists go through “apologetics training” because almost every argument for God is the establishment of a carefully worded and memorized rule, for which their deity is the sole exception. To back up the argument they have what feels like a series of call-tree-like responses to common atheist rebuttals. The responses are seen as valid not because they came to them via their own reasoning, but because the training says they are valid. Understandably, years of Sunday School trumps any one conversation, no matter how clear the points made.
I’ve written about counter-apologetics before, but not because I want to train my readers to debunk arguments for God in a certain way. Most of my posts are the process of me working out my own thoughts. By committing them to the blog, I am forced to analyze my growing philosophy which sometimes results in editing or reinforcing my beliefs. And since apologetics is, for the most part, the aforementioned call-tree of responses, I feel like I can only cover it for so long. I don’t want to repeat myself and I don’t want to preach. If you are new to atheism, to some degree I don’t even want you to read--at least until you hash out all this for yourself.
Any single-topic world-view with as much on-line coverage as atheism is bound to create an echo chamber. It is important to not get lost in it as a consumer of words. My advice is to think for yourself. Decide on your own if the God hypothesis is consistent with your philosophy, morality, and the consensus reality of our world. Then, if you’re so inclined, blog your journey and supplement your knowledge with the material available from everyone point of view. It has helped me immensely and I’m thankful for all the fellow bloggers and commenters I’ve met along the way.