The Intruder in the Closet

There's a monster in my closetIt’s 10 pm. You’re watching TV. You’re alone in the house.

At a commercial break, you push the mute button on the remote. Then you hear it. A rhythmic sound is coming from the closet door behind you.

“Thump, thump. Thump, thump.”

Your throat tightens. Your heart skips a beat. You recognize the sound. Someone is inside the closet, rapping their hand on the closet door.

“Thump, thump.”

A hundred different scenes from late-night slasher films flash through your mind. Is it Jason hiding my closet? (No. That’s silly.) Is it a Ted Bundy wannabe?

“Thump, thump.”

With fear deep in your throat, you decide to confront the intruder. You throw open the closet door. And you see a small, wooden bar stool. It’s red, illuminated by a pale, red indicator light that sits atop the small seat. As your eyes adjust, you realize that the glowing, red dot is attached to the front of a  tape recorder. Now you can see the exact source of the sound.

“Thump, thump,” rings out from the tape recorder’s speaker. You click the off switch, shudder and close the door.

Up to this very moment – right before you flung open the closet door – you had a very different belief about the reality about to unfold. Your belief was that there was a person inside the closet. Was that a rational belief? Absolutely.

And at this very moment in time, this is a scene that millions of people are stuck in. People who believe in a god.

If you’re not convinced of the analogy, let’s take a closer look at the evidence theists cite:

  • Their religion has been embraced for thousands of years
  • Their parents, whom they love and trust, assures them of the truth
  • The physical universe, to their naked eye, seems as if it were created especially for them and other humans

The conclusion derived from these support points – there must be a god – is a completely rational position. Just like your belief in the intruder in the closet.

But what if you never opened that door? What if you ran out of the house as fast as you could? What if the initial evidence you experienced was so compelling that it felt like it would be irrational to ignore it?

This is the condition of the modern-day, Western-world theist. They are not, as atheists so often accuse, being irrational. Theists arrived at their conclusions using demonstrably strong support points. Their religion’s antiquity, ubiquity and authenticity, as shared by trusted friends and family members, are perfectly credible sources of evidence.

Was there better evidence that no one was hiding in the closet? Are there demonstrable, testable genetic and neurological dispositions that make humans susceptible to believing in detached consciousnesses?

Certainly. But those who understand that evidence must have dared to look inside to consider it.

The person who runs from the house, and the theists of the 21st century, are one in the same. They are not irrational.

They are scared.

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Why many atheists needs a hug

Hey there, champ. Your mom tells me that you broke up with your beliefs.

I can’t say that we know exactly what you’re feeling, but we know you’re angry. We know it hurts to be mislead. We know how much we can invest into our beliefs, and how much they can matter to us.

Now that you’ve found out what your old beliefs really are, you’re bitter. Your beliefs let you down and you want them, and all its friends, to suffer, too. You want them all to suffer for all the pain, conflict and dissonance they caused in your life.

But, honey, this bitterness will only hurt you, not your old beliefs.

You’ve just made an amazing discovery in your life. You’ve realized who you really are. You’ve used your head and walked away from an abusive relationship. You’ve grown up.

Now it’s time to keep growing.

Your old beliefs, and all its friends, may have hurt you, but if you continue to carry the resentment, they will continue to hurt you.

You have a new life now. A new relationship. And, let me tell you, son, she’s a beauty. Thoughtful, clear-headed and honest. She’s a keeper. And she deserves your full attention.

So let your bitterness go. If you see your old beliefs and start to feel that old pain, think about the beliefs you’ve come to accept. And remember just how fortunate you are that the two of you met. You’re a different person now. A wiser person.

View your old beliefs with compassion – not simply for them or its friends, but for yourself. We all have a few bad relationships in our life. But you’ve moved on to something far greater.

Enjoy your new relationship, kiddo. I think the two of you are going to be very happy together.

The contradiction of collectivist atheists (guest post)

This is a long(ish) comment by polpaul to an earlier story that required its own space.

I’m not looking for the universal constant (well, I am, but not here).

My only point is to concur with the thesis of the [“Why Atheists act like Creationists…”] blog post, that non-theists cannot insist upon treating politics as if it is above the very system their logic claims produced it. If natural selection begets ethics, and ethics begets politics, then one cannot object to the notion that politics is a product of natural selection. Which begs the question why the term “social Darwinism” is a term of derision. [To dive deeper, another commenter suggests to read up on sociobiology.]

Not to stray from the topic, but I would go even further in agreeing that collectivists, especially those of an atheist stripe, tend to try to have it both ways. They veer toward statist politics that tend toward collectivist (read, coerced) solutions, while claiming that nature must be free to grow into its most productive genetic coding. I see an unholy alliance here between the theistic and atheistic collectivists.

But I digress from the central point…

There is a profound practicality to understanding the nature of ethics and politics. The most immediate example would be being able to spot a politician who is trying to get away with having it both ways–claim a non-theistic ethic, but use a non-natural system to explain (or impose) his politics or ethics.

Theists have it pretty easy here. They just point to their book, or what not, and they’re pretty much done.

Atheists bear an immense burden, which I think is assisted in knowing the nature of their ethical impulses and imperatives.