What's it like to be an atheist in Colorado Springs, home of the religious right?
No problems at all.
I've been a publicly avowed atheist all my adult life and get little or no animosity for it, even in this town. I've found that most religionists view atheists and agnostics as conversion opportunities, so they're nice to us. But often my questions and arguments either give them pause or make them disappear fast. Which is fine.
I wish my opponents were right and I was wrong. Who wouldn't want to believe that some supernatural father in the sky was watching over us and protecting us? Who wouldn't want to live forever in paradise?
But it's no good. God is always, and always has been, a no-show. And praying never has worked to solve any problem large or small, except by sheer coincidence. When you pray, you are talking on an empty phone line. There's no one there, although most preachers and clerics pretend they have a private line and know what a god is thinking.
Clarence Darrow said it best: "I don't believe in God because I don't believe in Mother Goose."
I taught standard, rigorous philosophy courses at the university level for 35 years, and these included philosophy of religions, along with ethics, theory of knowledge, theory of law, history of philosophy and all the rest. When I taught those sections of my courses, as was my duty, many students of course were unquestioning religionists, trained by their parents to believe. Many were shocked and offended by my even opening the floodgates. But as soon as they started thinking through the evidence and arguments, and they saw I was not hit by lightning in mid-lecture, they calmed down, became more and more thoughtful, and almost all of them at least started to question the unquestionable.
Simple "faith" of any kind can never, ever be trusted. Faith is belief with no supporting evidence, or worst of all, belief in spite of devastating contrary evidence.
There's the "design argument," i.e., that the human eye and other complex forms could not be randomly caused; only an intelligent designer — one particular god — must have done it. But to that, I present the "problem of evil": birth defects, earthquakes, diseases, galaxies colliding, hatred, tortures, floods and all the other "acts of God" that are horrendously cruel and insane by any standards.
In my mind, the problem of evil absolutely disproves any gods (such as the Christian or Jewish or Muslim gods) that are defined as "all powerful and all good." If he will not stop the horrible evils in the world, he's not all good. If he cannot, he's not all powerful.
Some religions admit their god is partly vicious; others admit theirs is not completely powerful. So they escape the problem of evil, and face the impossible task of proving via empirical evidence (not ancient holy books) that their personal god does in fact exist.
I taught atheism alongside the arguments and evidence for and against agnosticism, Christianity, Judaism, Zen Buddhism and the other major religions. When all evidence was compared, atheism was always the clear winner.
Faith won't do. Holy books won't do. Only factual evidence can be trusted, anywhere, any time. It is the guts of science.
I now consider religions not only false, but dangerous and deadly, as Christians and Muslims slaughter each other, along with Jews, Hindus and the others fanatically hating and killing each other around the world.
In the nuclear age, this is doomsday.
Larimore "Nick" Nicholl, a retired professor who taught many years at the University of Southern Colorado (now Colorado State University-Pueblo), lives in Colorado Springs.
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