G'day,

I find this discussion fascinating. I don't quite see how being an atheist means a person has no faith. Since there is a great deal of systems for the universe that are not understood, to accept any system as possible or likely is to exercise faith.

I always thought the definition of an atheist is that they did not believe that there was a powerful conscious entity that somehow controlled their lives or the lives of man in general.

I thought Agnostic meant that the person considers that it is possible that there is a powerful conscious entity but that, if that entity did exist, it is so removed from their day-to-day life, that it was not relevant to them at all.

I am an atheist, I think. Nevertheless, I also have a strong sense of faith. I think that man is basically good rather than evil. That is a tenant of faith since it is not provable; at least to me it is not. Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, King Richard the Lionheart, Saladin, etc managed to cause the deaths of tens of thousands to tens of millions of people and so logically evil seems to have the upper hand. Yet, it seems that such evil is on a grand scale.

Most primates use violence to keep the clan in line. The Banobo uses sex but this seems to be the exception. Gorillas can be quite violent and even commit murder. Chimpanzees seem to be extremely violent and murder, including infanticide is very common. Yet humans in tribal units seem to be much less violent. I read a study that suggested the "bully" impulse has slowly been removed from humans by the simple expedient of the females of human troops getting together and killing bullies.

It is only when you have interaction between different tribes that bloodshed seems to be more common and even then, it seems that various mechanisms have been developed to reduce the actual harm caused in such encounters.

There appears to be a genetic imperative to protect other humans. Firstly, there is a very strong imperative to protect one's offsprings, followed closely by those of your community. However, that does not really explain those that risk their lives sometimes to save enemies. A man that runs into a burning glider to rescue trapped soldiers of the opposite army suggests something else is at work here rather than just the protection of those we know.

I do not wish to big note myself at all but have rescued others in my life, very often total strangers, and sometimes people who were very unpleasant and had been abusive. Any fire fighter can provide similar stories. As a police officer called out to tragedies and the first attenders to fires, road accidents and such, rescuing others was just part of the job. You might argue that as an atheist the imperative there was that I needed to demonstrate to my fellow officers that I would do my duty however often I was alone.

I have met many people in my life who state clearly they are atheists yet take huge risks for themselves to attempt to save others in peril.

Some religious people argue that they are not atheists then but I believe that is a cop out. A way of saying that if you don't agree with me then you just are not being honest.

"If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed. [Albert Einstein]"

With that I agree completely but there is nothing to say that people are good because they either fear punishment or hope for a reward. That argument could be used for those that believe in a vengeful God along the lines of Allah or the Old Testament God. These people may only be being good because of the fear of their God. What an appalling reason for doing good works.

The reason I believe that people are basically good? I suffer terribly from a medical condition. My wife remains by my side regardless of the terrible conditions she must cope with. Strangers have gone out of their way to assist me when I have come to harm, their concern, clearly etched on their faces only for the wellbeing of others, not for some abstract notion of doing good to score brownie points with some deity. And finally, to the occasions when I do good, whether it be something very minor or something life altering. It makes me feel better, good even. Why? Not because I've read the Bible. I worry terribly about any literal interpretation of that book. It includes such appalling commands as to kill a child who is disobedient. Not because I've read the Koran. It directs the devout that they can never be friends with a Jew or a Christian and that's one of the tamer sections. Or other religious texts. Buddhism is often touted as the religion that preaches tolerance etc but by the concept of reincarnation it obliges people to be good or the consequences can be you will come back as a snail (I exaggerate to make the point).

It seems that humans separated themselves from the rest of the animal kingdom when they became self-aware. This seems to have happened about 70,000 years ago. At that time, there was no Allah, Jehovah, God, or whatever. If we say it is only from this point that humans became real humans it still means that religion such as the Christian religion has been around for only a tiny fraction of the time of humans. I've always been fascinated in the religious persons' perspective of what happens to those that just did not have a God to pray to, let alone Ten Commandments, the Songs of the Koran or whatever. These people would often have done extremely good works. We know that humans cared for other humans often for years even though they were not productive members of their society. There are skeletons of humans that would have been incapable of caring for themselves for as many as seven years before their deaths. There are a great many skeletons that show periods of two years or so. For a people that were lucky to live to 35 and where life was extremely harsh, such aid and comfort would only have been possible at great personal discomfort and suffering. Do these people not deserve a place in Heaven because they simply didn't know about it?

As far as I know, I have never helped anyone for personal reward. On the very rare occasion, my actions were recognised all it caused was acute embarrassment. Funnily enough, such feting of "good works" did not make me feel good at all. As an atheist that sort of suggests that I did not take the action because I feared punishment or a hope for reward.

As someone that is suffering a debilitating condition that has destroyed my ability to be employed, caused the loss of my house, meant that I cannot help my children or even play with them, I still haven't change to believe I automatically deserve special treatment. I will fight to receive benefits that my Government says is owing to those with disabilities and for their children but have never for a second thought to contact anyone that I may have helped in the past to ask for a handout. A couple of people that I did assist are actually very wealthy and so I guess I could have approached them. After all, what's a few hundred thousand to someone who has many millions? But I just don't have the ability to make such an approach. I don't even know why. I do know I would feel bad if I did such a thing and once a person on a site that dealt with medical problems which I was moderating sent me money to help out a problem I had. She was a very wealthy person and yet it caused acute embarrassment and it was only that the woman became very offended when I tried to return the money accusing me of denying her the right to help my family who she had grown to greatly care about over the years of our posts that I accepted the offer. I still feel guilt about it believe it or not.

From all of that I could suggest that an Atheist does not necessarily do something for fear of punishment or the desire for reward. I've been told by others in similar situations to me who do not have any religious faith that they have had similar feelings.

Therefore, my FAITH, as an atheist is that people are capable of great good, to those that are not family or even part of their community. That is not to say that people are not capable of great evil. The amount of rapes that occur in our so call-civilised society suggests that there is a lot wrong with a great many people.

As my life winds down towards its conclusion, all I can conclude is that love conquers all and: "In the end only kindness matters."

With Love to all that Believe in Kindness


Regards

Richard
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Sane=fits in. Unreasonable=world needs to fit to him. All Progress requires unreasonableness