The MU SASHA Blog

The official blog of University of Missouri Skeptics, Atheists, Secular Humanists, & Agnostics

And now, if you will, a metaphor….

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Imagine a massive boat filled with many sailors. At some time, a rumor began spreading amongst all the people that the boat was heading towards an island that was unbelievably amazing; an island where all the normal laws of reality were suspended and ultimate, endless bliss would enrapture them forever. Many of the sailors took so much joy from this thought that they began ignoring their duties on the ship, doing little more than staring out on the horizon and waiting for the island to appear. Many others did indeed continue their day-to-day tasks on the ship, helping to keep it clean and such, but they constantly talked about the island. It was their obsession, their passion, and their pride. Groups and sub-groups formed around different ideas of what the island would be like. Some thought it would be tropical, others temperate, and still others thought it would have every climate imaginable for all people to enjoy. Arguments sprang up over what sorts of foods would be present on the island!

At various times, different sailors would hold out their spyglasses and shout aloud “I see it! I see the island there!” and many would swell with enthusiasm…that is, until it was revealed that the crier had seen wrong (or, on occasion, even outright lied). Despite all these false alarms and misplaced swells of hope, the vast majority of the sailors kept believing, to the point of certainty, that the island was just over the next wave.

Eventually, almost all of the sailors took to ignoring the present duties of ship-board life and chose to stare out on the horizon with their own spyglasses, each on certain that they could see the island in the distance (despite some of them looking in utterly opposite directions). Indeed, there were many heated arguments, but one thing every one of them could agree on was this: regardless of exactly where it was or what it was like, that perfect island was definitely out there, somewhere. It just had to be.

One day, one of the sailors climbed up to the top of the mast and found two other sailors there, arguing.

“I think the island will be temperate!” said the first. “It will be temperate, I tell you!”

“Ah, but you’re mistaken, friend. It will be tropical!” said the second. “I guarantee you, for I can see it!” he continued, holding his spyglass aloft.

“Fool!” shouted the first. “I can see it, and it is, in fact, quite temperate!”

At that point, the third sailor (who had just climbed up) yanked the spyglasses from both others and told them this:

“Actually, friends, you’re both mistaken. If you’ll just look right here,” he said, gesturing to the ends of their spyglasses, “you’ll see that you each just drew what you wanted the island to be like on the glass. You were never actually seeing the island; you just painted what you wanted to see and thus saw it in your own imagination. Now if you’ll just look without these faulty spyglasses, you’ll quickly see that there is no island; in fact, there never was an island. However, what we do have is an amazing ship with everything you could ever really want already on it. There are lots of other people onboard, too. You can get to know them, make friends, find lovers, and have wonderful conversations. You can learn, eat, relax, work, and overall have a merry life aboard this ship if you’ll only just stop obsessing over this island you came up with.”

“But the island is supposed to be perfect!” cried the first sailor.

“Indeed! Perfect!” shouted the second, both of them clearly distraught at this news.

“Ah, but that is exactly why it doesn’t exist, friends,” said the third sailor. He reached out and put his hands on their shoulders: “Nothing perfect is out there. I’ll admit it, this ship is sometimes leaky and some of the other people aboard aren’t too terribly pleasant. But I think you’ll find that once you stop daydreaming about perfection and start happily working with what you do have, you’ll find yourselves much happier.”

Now, just guess which sailor was the Atheist…
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SASHA blog guest contributor Brandon Christen, a former Church of Christ preacher-turned-atheist, was born and raised in Missouri. He grew up in a religious family, and joined a far-right conservative church when he was a senior in college. For almost six years, the church dominated all facets of his life and thinking until, in early 2010, he began to openly question its steadfast rejection of science and philosophy. After a protracted struggle with his convictions, Brandon became an atheist in September of that year. These days Brandon remains intensely interested in religion, focusing on religious versus secular moral and ethical issues. Brandon frequently engages in conversations with as many religious individuals as he can in a “grass roots” effort to spread awareness about secular morality. He also acts as a strong voice in the Secular Student Alliance at the University of Central Missouri. While he sees debunking religious falsehoods as important, Brandon’s ultimate focus is on becoming a professional philosopher and emphasizing in ethics so as to lend his voice to the attempt to heal the moral divide between believers and non-believers. 

Helpful resources:

Godisimaginary.com
Iron Chariots Wiki
Skeptics’ Annotated Bible / Skeptics’ Annotated Qur’an
AtheismResource.com
TalkOrigins.org

YouTubers: Evid3nc3Thunderf00tTheAmazingAtheistThe Atheist ExperienceEdward Current,NonStampCollectorMr. DeityRichard DawkinsQualiaSoup

Blogs: Greta ChristinaPZ MyersThe Friendly AtheistWWJTD?Debunking ChristianitySkepChick

and don’t forget… other SASHA members! We are here for you, too!

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About delightfullydoubtful

I'm a former preacher turned staunch Atheist. For a while, I dabbled in the cliche mindset that, with the realization that there was no afterlife or judgment, I was free to focus solely on money, sex, and worldly pleasure. However, that lifestyle was found to be woefully inadequate for this one-in-eternity shot at living, so I quickly moved on. For a while, I took up the banner of evangelical Atheism; deciding that the best way to serve my fellow man was to convince everyone I could to abandon religious faith. To that end, I frantically began trying to read up on my philosophy and science so as to have the most damning anti-theism arguments possible... However, I quickly found that line of approach to life wasn't very fulfilling either. Don't misunderstand me; I do honestly think that religion and spirituality (in the esoteric, religious sense) are both more harmful than good, and I think that mankind would do itself a huge favor if it threw off the fetters of supernaturalism once and for all. However, I realize that it is a fools errand to tell someone you are going to change their mind against so virulent and powerful a meme as religion. Ergo, I asked myself "What can someone who's eager, has a love for philosophy, science, and debate do to play their own small part in the theism/atheism issue?" My answer was simple: ethics. I think that ethics is the biggest battleground of the secular/religious culture war. Sure, the tenets of the two big religions include a need to focus on eternity, but to be honest most folks who believe in God simple despise Atheists for the false perspective that an Atheistic society would be one without ethics or morality. This simply isn't true; there have been many morally minded Atheists and there exist now many very ethical Atheists. In fact, I see ethics and Atheism as being interwoven; a thought I'll hopefully be exploring more on this blog. By no means am I an expert...yet. I don't pretend to be. I do, however, desire to be an expert on ethics someday, and I'm actively working towards it whenever I have the time. This blog is to be my own venting ground and training ground, of sorts, where I can put what I'm thinking into text and review it myself. I don't think anyone will ever come here and read my writings, but that's okay by me.

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This entry was posted on December 16, 2011 by in Author: Brandon Christen and tagged , .
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