Encouraging religion to "beget" off!
One of the big questions that religions claim to seek – if not answer – is “What does it mean to be human?”
If the question means anything, then the answer must include striving to be something more than we are, by finding ways to overcome our intrinsic limitations.
This “overcoming” is plainly written in our bodies. The earliest humans used tools and clothing to effectively augment their bodies – thereby creating surrogates for sharp teeth, claws and fur. The very shape of our hands has co-evolved with tool use, and we walk on two legs to facilitate that – despite our problem backs. We have opposable thumbs, and can form a pencil grip and make fine movements with what we hold. Looking at our hands and bodies, we observe that to survive we must be more than what we are born with. That is our nature.
Our species is marked by continuous innovation – tools, fire, language, agriculture, and virtually unlimited territorial expansion including to the moon. Our ancestors domesticated plants and animals, created great cities and designed new technologies, as we continue to do today.
We endlessly compete with ourselves to be stronger and faster; better at art, music, science, sport, transport, and endless other endeavours. We climb this planet’s highest mountain simply “because it is there”. We adorn ourselves with cosmetics and perfumes, jewellery and tattoos, new hairstyles and the latest fashions, in ways that no species can match.
No other type of animal even attempts to do anything like this.
A dog is always a dog – a horse, always a horse. It is not in any other animal’s nature to try to be something more than what it is – unlike our species, where that “overcoming” is an intrinsic feature of what it means to be human.
In other words – It is in our nature to be more than our nature.
Human intelligence permits us to do these things – intelligence that has other side-effects. This drive to be something greater than human includes the need to explain the causes of natural events and of human origins, to predict what is going to happen, to overcome death, and to create a safe society where selfish or violent individuals are deterred from doing harm. Throughout most of human history religion has filled this role, allowing humans the opportunity to experience at least the illusion of transcendence.
The trouble is, because religions have no inbuilt reality checks, religious concepts are based on ideas that are handed down, or earnestly wished for, not on what is necessarily true.
Truly transcending human limitations includes transcending our mind’s limitations as well. This involves seeing the universe as it actually is, not how we might wish it to be. It requires being able to rise above ourselves, and to be able to determine what is real, despite the extreme constraints of our senses and our inherited hunter-gatherer brains.
Science, and through science, atheism, is a continuation of that human journey of becoming something more than human. It is about overcoming the constraints of mind, body and culture, in order to see deeply into our universe and comprehend it for what it truly is. And to do that, despite everything!
Atheism is that bold unflinching look at the Universe as it really is.