The First Question, The Right Test

That is not what the Bible says, that is what it reads

Dr. Lawrence C. Keene For the Bible Tells Me So

I’ve toyed with a half-dozen articles for this blog on the subject of belief. The first question of introspection, probably the first question ever asked would probably be:

Why am I here?

Douglas Adams noted in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy the importance of asking the right question if you want to understand the answer (42 In his version of events) this lead to the creation of the Earth as the universe’s largest computer, capable of answering the ultimate question of Life, The Universe and Everything. If we want to understand the answer to the question why am I here? Then we should probably be sure that is the question we want answered.

I have not talked about religion or my beliefs here before this post, but I have talked about them elsewhere. I created the phrase Atheism is Not a Belief System when I authored the thread on Dan Carlin’s BBS forum, a thread that is now over 500 pages and several years old, and that was my first attempted blog post on the subject of belief. I was simply transposing that argument there from here, or rather, trying out the ideas I would eventually put here. When I created that thread it was the only search return for that string when typed into Google; now there are several hits with that exact title. I consider it a good thing that I never managed to finish compiling my points from that thread to post here.  I don’t think I understood the question I was seeking answers to when I started it.

Let’s talk about Religion Then was one of the titles I tried to kill the thread with, later in its life. When you talk about religious particulars the important questions are lost, and the dialog becomes a childish set of opposing monologues espousing nothing more than my beliefs are better than yours. That title was inspired by the angry religionists (and denialist atheists who really did want another religion) who insisted that not-basketball was a sport. The childish set of opposing monologues went on for hundreds of pages on that thread.

I could poke fun at religion and the religious all day long, but I know that there really isn’t that much difference between believers and non-believers in a general sense. The non-believers ask questions about things that believers will not when it comes to the subject of religion, that is the only major difference between the two groups. Let’s talk about Religion Then would have been a tally of religious transgressions similar to ones found in other places, like FFRF’s documenting priestly excesses, the kind of content that can be found on any number of opinion sites on the internet these days.

In the end, I don’t have enough hatred for religion as a social structure to want to hurt people I know and love. People I know who are religious, who will not be able to separate the attacks on religion from their beliefs. I’m not an anti-theist, I’m just an atheist or a freethinker, and atheists simply have no gods which was the point of using the phrase Atheism is Not a Belief System in the first place.

I toyed with titling this article Why Atheism? At first, because The Wife wanted to know, why did I have to call myself an atheist? Why I would want to be associated with the most hated group on the planet?  In the end that title turned out to be the wrong question. I don’t want to be an atheist, which is why I altered my personal identifier from atheist to freethinker. After I did that, most of her questions fell by the wayside.

Why Existence? Is the right question, but not the right title for the article. Why existence is the first question, the one question that sparks all other questions. Why am I here to ask this question? Why do I exist?

This question ties directly into what I have come to identify as Emergent Principles of Human Nature. Without that question, there are no principles to define, there is no introspection that requires answers. A religious person will answer “I am here because god placed me here.” or some variation on that theme. Which is all fine and good, as far as unmoved movers and Spinozan gods goes.

If, however, you want to drag Jesus or his Abrahamic god-father into this article, then I must explain the minimum standards you have to meet in order to have your beliefs taken seriously anywhere outside your own head. Are you ready? Then I’ll describe the minimum standards for my accepting the existence of your Abrahamic god.

I’ll agree that there is a supreme being who offers judgement and whose will must be followed on the day that he submits himself for questioning and verification by a certifying authority. The test I would suggest? I’d pick one from the bible. It should be easy enough for Jehovah/Allah to replicate if what the Bible says of him is true. Dig up the recently deceased, certified as dead, someone who was embalmed and known to be buried. Have Jehovah/Allah breath life into the corpse and then question the newly revived person as to the particulars of his previous life. If it is the same person (which should be an impossibility given what we know of biology) then Jehovah/Allah has demonstrated his powers over reality itself.

Until that time, as a pragmatist, I’m going to stick with best practices as suggested by applied science to determine what rules we should follow. I am sorry to disappoint the believers out there among my readers.


This was an article stub that I maintained for years hoping against hope that the Atheism is Not a Belief System thread would give me something to hang onto, some kind of concise way of defeating all religious arguments and deflecting the atheophobic that I hadn’t even realized existed until the thread hit page 500. Once I realized that I was dealing with fear of atheism and atheists and not just hatred or misunderstanding, I resigned myself to the fact that I was never going to convince anyone with words alone.

It was at that point that I contrived the right test, since the right argument was never going to win the day. It was also about that time that I decided the softer label, freethinker, would at least allow me to have conversations without triggering fear in the random religious person that I might be talking to. That is about as far as I’m willing to go to spare the feelings of the delusional that surround me. Let John Wathey explain it to you:

The Illusion of God’s Presence: The Biological Origins of Spiritual Longing by John C. Wathey

…or why god is a substitute for your parents. The blog version of Atheism is Not a Belief System is here:

I spend most of the beginning of that article describing my experience trying to shepherd that thread through its years of existence. It was not a pleasant experience but it was educational.