The musings of a previously unemployed Jewish Freemason. I write about the job search, about Judaism, and about Freemasonry.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Reason Rally

About the Reason Rally this weekend: it is disingenuous for atheists to think that by rejecting one axiom, they have reason on their side. Reason is a tool that everybody has access to. It is a powerful servant but a lousy master, since it wants nothing, cares for nothing, and wills nothing into being. There is reason behind rejecting theism, but there is reason behind rejecting oysters, and ultimately both reasons are aesthetic (unless one has a shellfish allergy).

To use an analogy from mathematics, believing in God is like using the Axiom of Choice, and rejecting God is like rejecting the Axiom of Choice. The majority of mathematicians embrace the Axiom of Choice, even though it is fraught with logical paradoxes, the same way that the majority of people are theistic, even though theism is fraught with logical paradoxes. Rejecting the Axiom of Choice provides its own sets of challenges, and makes it hard to engage with the majority of mathematicians who use it, when discussing mathematics governed by the Axiom of Choice. Rejecting theism makes it challenging to engage in ontological issues with the majority who are theistic. Ultimately, the existence of God is axiomatic, as it is unprovable, and for a theist, a first ontological principle.

In mathematics, there is a conceit that all of mathematics can be based on a set of axioms called ZFC, or the Zermelo-Frankel axioms, with the Axiom of Choice. Some try to build all of mathematics based on ZF¬C, or the Zermelo-Frankel axioms without the Axiom of Choice, because they regard those paradoxes that come with the Axiom of Choice as a refutation of the Axiom of Choice. Right now, it is very hard to be a ZF¬C mathematician. It might not always be so difficult, but currently the Axiom of Choice permeates a lot of mathematics, including algebra, analysis, measure theory, geometry, topology, set theory, logic, and without it, it is harder to do math. I see atheism as parallel to ZF¬C. It challenges an assumption that a lot of people live by. Those who evangelize atheism are demanding that people abandon a basic assumption about the way existence works.

There are brilliant atheists and stupid atheists. There are compassionate atheists and cruel atheists. There are moral victories and atrocities committed by atheists just as there are by theists. I don't believe that atheists should be discriminated against at their workplaces, in acquiring housing, or in their daily lives, and I am sorry if atheists feel oppressed, and will do what I can to help alleviate their oppression wherever appropriate. One big assumption of the Reason Rally is that there are many atheists who are living closeted lives as atheists. The assumption is that there are many people who would be vocal atheists, but are afraid of losing their jobs and families if they "come out" as atheists.  As people who put their trust in reason and science, I'm sure they have sociological data to back up their claims, which I encourage them to publish. I feel sympathy for these people, assuming they exist in the numbers claimed by their vocal advocates. Nobody should deny their natures because of outward pressure to conform. They are justified in convening and encouraging like-minded others to join them.

But if they think they have a monopoly on reason merely by rejecting the existence of God, they forfeit the very reason they claim to monopolize.

1 comment:

  1. If you want to test if someone really lives by the standard of reason, point out a logical fallacy they might have made, and see how they respond.