Right off the bat let me caution that this post is not to be construed as a solicitation for religious witnessing. I am now, have been for years, and will continue to be an atheist. That I am some kind of waffling atheist has not been expressed, nor should be implied.
The nexus of this post is two separate posts that I read on Camels With Hammers, an absolutely fantastic philosophy blog written by Daniel Finke. One of the posts I commented on almost a year ago, and the other is an introduction to an interesting neurological concept. The posts in question are here and here.
The first conversation seemingly has little to do with the second post but indulge me for a moment. In the first post between me and Dan I was trying to wrap my head around the lingering need to find meaning in simple chance occurrences of life:
I’m not entirely clear about your point of meaning in everyday events.
My logic tells me that a completely statistically probable event happens and I impart meaning to it that does not really exist outside of my INTERPRETATION of it. True enough that meaning exists simply because I perceive it to be there, but what about third party meaning. My heart still clings to destiny or some semblance of it and THAT is what logic tells me is not likely. My run in with my friend is more intertwined with my eventual loss of faith, which my mind wants to believe happened for a reason. It did not…
I was trying at the time to understand why I still assign a “cosmic plan” to events in my life even when logic tells me that there are perfectly acceptable, natural reasons why my mind thinks that way. A really good primer on the naturalistic causes of “cosmic plan” syndrome can be found in Unweaving the Rainbow by Richard Dawkins.
So how does one explain the need to draw supernatural conclusions even in the face of understanding their naturalistic causes?
Is it habit?
What draws me back to supernatural causes as a “security blanket”? More importantly for me, however; do other atheists have those same dichotomies, the same apparent “compartmentalism”?
The second part to this post pertains to the video from the link above and shown again here:
There are actually people who are BOTH atheists and theists. Perhaps, to borrow from another dichotomy, when “spirituality” is concerned, we are all to some degree rational and irrational, just as science tells us that we are all to varying degrees both straight and gay. In this case though, these differences would by rights be learned, your propensity to grasp the concepts of atheism or theism then are pre-wired and “charged” by your surroundings.
For some people then, atheism would be more natural than for others. For myself, I have found that there is what I would guess is a 65-35 split. I don’t think this makes me agnostic or deist or any other mid-point on the religious spectrum. I am squarely an atheist, with a disclaimer.
I don’t necessarily imagine that this is exactly what Dr. Ramachandran is referring to in his talk, but it broaches the subject nicely for me in this case. I feel as though there is one “dominant” side of my brain that is rational to the core, and one “subordinate” side which longs for religion to be true. This very battle is what drew me into the arguments for and against theism, but I confess the dying embers of religion have not ever fully extinguished.