Slightly disappointed…

A week ago, I went to the American Atheists 2009 conference, and for the most part, had a great time. Melisa and I got to meet a lot of great people, and talk, and heard some great speakers.

One experience, however, has stuck in my mind since the conference, and I thought I’d share about it. I’m pretty much a left-wing liberal secular humanist atheist, while my wife is a dyed in the wool right wing Ayn Rand objectivist atheist. This, in itself is causes some interesting discussions in our house, but hey – Discussion of differing ideas is what makes the world go around, right?

Well, that’s kind of what disappointed me. When I mentioned that fact to the people at our table after Mike Malloy said he couldn’t see how you could be right wing and atheist, (And hearing some of the loud agreement with that statement at the conference), I was dumbfounded as to how close-minded some of our fellow atheists seem to be on this topic. When my wife mentioned some of the ideas of objectivism to a lady at our table, she (the lady in question) became livid at the idea that government shouldn’t help the indigent and the poor. This seemed to color the rest of the conversation we were having as well. Now, I do disagree with this statement, but it seems to me that this type of thing should be able to be discussed without the obvious anger and revulsion at some logical and rational level.

In any case, it seems that even we, who claim to be open minded and rational, tend to have a bit of work to do in our own camp as well.

New Information vs. Old Information

One thing I hear frequently from Christians is the idea they have that God wants (Insert thingy here). Usually people come up with this after praying, or say that God speaks to them in a quiet voice. I wanted to write a note to suggest to those people that they should perhaps consider that the voice comes from another source.

My daughter once suggested to me that perhaps this is our dreaming world, and that when we dream, that is reality. I’ve heard this to suggest things like astral projection and the like are real things as well.

I wanted to offer this other point of view as a way to “test” the “reality” of both of these claims.

Let’s take as premise that our brains are devices that process information for our bodies. Our lives are spent gathering new information that is processed by our brains.

Our brains are capable of taking that information and re-arranging it in all sorts of ways, but there is only so far you can process information. For example, you might pick up clues from body language and such that Harry is cheating on Sally, but in order to figure out that it’s with Jane Smith from Cleveland, you must have some knowledge of Jane. You can’t divine out of thin air that bit of information.

So, as test, think back over your life throughout those answers to your prayers. Have you ever received a NEW bit of information from God? A single one? Or, rather, has it always been information that if you thought really hard, you could have come up with on your own?

My answer to my daughter’s case was: Have you ever received a single new bit of information in your dreams? How about when you were awake? It was simple to point out to her that in fact, like every one else, her dreams were her body’s way of working out information relationships for things that she ALREADY KNEW. Thus, her dreams can’t be any form of reality.

In any case, food for thought…