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I concluded one of my classes yesterday with what turned into a sappy love-letter to life. I had spent the year teaching them a different way of looking at the world than they had gotten from any other class (or so they tell me); included in this was one very simple, yet monumental difference (one that biologists should have no problem with, but I have not actually seen any data on it), namely that it does not benefit us to look at the world in terms of "averages" (or, relatedly, prototypes) and "deviation" from those examples, but rather as dynamic populations where variability is every bit as important as central tendency.

At one point early in the semester, a student had argued "there's no such thing as perfect". In this closing, I saw her nodding and smiling when I said "anyone who says there is no such thing as perfect, has never had a baby. All babies are perfect."... of course, I did allow that a good many parents may not agree, and that their reaction was part of the variability that makes up the spectrum of life.

I have been called "the most spiritual person I have ever met" by more than one person... I always disagree. "Spirituality", and all our religious terms, come from this hypothesis you speak of, an attempt to explain the universe before we even had the slightest inkling of how incredibly vast the universe really is, and how infinitesimally it can be observed. All the religious vocabulary of wonder and awe pale in comparison to the Hubble pictures, or scanning electron micrographs, or (let's face it) a newborn baby or a first kiss. I am not spiritual, because the world is, the universe is, every person is, much much more magnificent than a mere word like "heavenly" can fit. God is much too small. Heaven is much too small. Reality can hold thousands of gods, quite comfortably, and decide to dismiss them at will. Now *that's* power.

This was supposed to be a short comment. I think your writing style is contagious. I hope so.


I am one of those atheists would like to see religion removed from the world. My reason is that religion is riddled with lies and hypocrisy, to the point I find that one cannnot exist without the others. Those two things are to always be fought against and we have examples in the extreme: the hypocritical creationist who willfully spreads lies about science and insists that his myth is "true" but uses all the modern conveniences made by the same science he decrys; the theist who is so sure that his "god" is the true one and that anyone who disagrees is a liar and less than human but has no evidence to show himself not just as much a liar.

David D.G.

Wow, Greta, I *am* impressed --- you got Cuttlefish to write a comment in prose! ;^D

Seriously, this is an awesomely written article. My only concern is that it may be addressing an argument that seldom, if ever, is presented against us; I, for one, have never heard a religious person complain that atheists were "anti-diversity" (only that we were anti-God, anti-morality, Antichrists, and so on).

However, by approaching the issue as one of diversity, you manage to address the complaints about atheism from all the various shades and hues of religion in a unified fashion that works for all of them, so it also works for addressing the complaints about atheism from each of them. That's what I call efficiency.

Also, there's a lot about social diversity that has nothing to do with religion, but derives from other aspects of various cultures (sometimes entangled with religion, but not necessarily inextricably so); an all-atheistic world would be no less culturally diverse than an all-Christian world (and probably more, since it would not have all the superstitious hangups demanding conformity that religion, not atheism, tends to promote --- as shown by the fight for full civil rights for GLBTs, to name just one example).

~David D.G.

Bruce Gorton

When people talk about "defending diversity" it sometimes helps to highlight just what that means.

Now that story isn't about religion, instead it is about a cultural practice which is disgusting, but the same principle applies.

We can't criticise that while championing cultural diversity - we want that practice to be changed, and the culture which led to it has to change too.

And consider this, the defenders of culture argue that the actual cultural practice is kidnapping a woman and holding her prisoner until she finally agrees to get married.

As opposed to selling children into what amounts to sex slavery.

Does that leave us with a case of "Oh, well that's all right then"? No. It doesn't. It really, really doesn't.

If something is wrong we can't just say "DIVERSITY!" and that ends the arguement. Otherwise we end up saying "DIVERSITY!" to some pretty nasty stuff.

And the exact same thing applies to the religious. You cannot hide your religion behind diversity because when you get right down to it, being different doesn't stop you from being wrong.

And what actually matters at the end of the day is not some rich tapestry of opinions each maintained distinct and inviolate. What matters is "Is this right?"


Based on this theory, should we all just make up our own personal gods & mythologies, instead of adopting the ones that are already popular? Then things would be really diverse...


I'm not into religion in the "organised" sense - dogma, that is. But my faith is something that's verifiable BY ME, in my heart, my mind. It's what I live by, and I am not impressed by anyone - atheist or hardline religionist - telling me that my experiences are wrong and theirs are right. I've been agnostic-verging-on-atheist. I am now probably roughly definable as spiritualist, for want of a better term. I live my reality and it's a damn sight happier and more fulfilling than the way I felt before. The type of atheists who dismiss it as "woo woo" or prattle about unicorns and so on are just as closed-minded as fundamentalist "be born again or burn in hell" Christians. I know they're not representative in either case - blogland does tend to attract extremes - but I don't have much use for conversionists of any stripe.


I liked your article. You made one statement though that is hard for me to understand: "We see it as a hypothesis that at the very least has been falsified numerous times, and at worst is unfalsifiable and should be therefore rejected on that basis alone." Since religion has been falsified a bunch of times, doesn't that mean it IS Falsifiable. Just because people continuing believing in it does not make it unfalsifiable. Just as vaccine-deniers and creationists continue holding to their beliefs does not mean their respective hypotheses are unfalsifiable. It simply means people can't accept the reality and cling to their beliefs most likely due to the confirmation bias. But otherwise it was a great article and it's certainly fine for us atheists to stir the religious pot every now and then.

Greta Christina
Since religion has been falsified a bunch of times, doesn't that mean it IS Falsifiable.

It depends on the belief. Some religious beliefs are falsifiable, and have been falsified -- such as all of life and the Universe being brought into existence 6,000 years ago over the course of six days. Other religious beliefs are not falsifiable -- such as the deistic god who created the universe and set it into motion but has never since intervened in it in any way.

The beliefs that are unfalsifiable should be rejected because they are unfalsifiable. The beliefs that are falsifiable should be rejected because... well, they've been falsified.

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