Sunday, December 16, 2007

An Atheist's Prayer

I think that to many of us, atheism represents a profound belief rather than a certainty. For me at least, both as a thinking person and a scientist, any such rigid conviction would be almost as abhorrent as religious dogmatism. We have to consider the possibility that any particular theory of the universe- ours included- is flawed, or even just plain false (string theory is a good candidate for the latter). As the astronomer Carl Sagan said, "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." So we can’t be completely certain that the universe was neither created nor is ruled over by some kind of supernatural being. This means, unfortunately, that deists might, in spite of themselves, possibly be right about the existence of a god(s).

But if we atheists did get this wrong, there is surely no reason to conclude that any organized religion got it right. What are the odds that any particular superstitious club, in our very ordinary little dot of space, happened upon the correct description of this all-powerful ruler of the universe? Probably about equal to the infinitesimal odds given in Matthew 19:24 of a rich man getting into heaven. It seems far more likely that any such “god(s)” would bear little or no resemblance whatsoever to any gods envisioned by any religions past or present.

The prayer below, addressed “to whom it may concern”, explores the possibility that atheism/humanism might have gotten this one wrong:

An Atheist’s Prayer

Bless my family and me,

Whatever organizing force there may be in the World;

Whatever abiding spirit may have escaped the crushing randomness of the Universe;

Whatever God-like being, capable of ascribing meaning to life and the world,

I might have over-looked in the arrogant certainty of my atheism.

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