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Why I care… Why I write

September 6, 2012

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I’ve heard people affected with Tourette’s Syndrome describe their “tics” as intense, involuntary compulsions, similar to a sneeze. Like a sneeze, they describe, a tic can be suppressed for a time, but eventually it’s going to come out with an even stronger intensity, proportional to the amount of time it was held back.

Luckily, I don’t have Tourette’s, but I do sympathize an awful lot with this description. Sure, I’ve suppressed a sneeze or two in my day, only to end up with a face full of snot for my efforts, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. As I’m sure most of you have caught on to by now, this is the most basic reason why I’m writing this blog: I just can’t help it.

But that’s really just the easy, superficial answer. Despite the desire of far too many among us to live in a world of black-and-white, right-and-wrong, good-and-bad (including a seemingly disproportionate number of American politicians), reality is a whole heck of a lot more complex than that. The real answer for why anyone does anything beyond that which ensures its immediate survival (like breathing) is both complicated and extremely elusive. But as simply as I can possibly hope to say it, the more profound answer for why I write this blog is that I’m in love. I don’t mean that in the traditional sense, as in “I love my wife,” although that too is absolutely true. (And since we’re acknowledging complexities here, I ought to give her a lot of credit, not just for being the smart, beautiful, caring and thoughtful person she is, but also for her unconditional support and encouragement of all my endeavors, including this one. Without her this tic of mine might have stayed suppressed indefinitely, or I may not have had the confidence to express it. Of course, if this blog was just about her and how fantastic she is, my readership may be limited to just me and her family, so I digress.) Instead, what I mean by “I’m in love,” is that I genuinely love everything about craft beer and my atheism, and I am a much better person for it.

With respect to craft beer, I love the artistry that goes into its design, the sense of history and culture it embodies, the variety of flavors, colors and aromas, the community of craft beer drinkers, and of course the sensory experience of enjoying not only drinking a great beer, but doing so in unique locations around the world with others who are just as passionate. It may not be immediately obvious, but pick up any book that deals with the history of beer and you’ll appreciate the lens it offers into human history as well. From the construction of the pyramids in Egypt, to the founding of this country, beer was a crucial ingredient.

With respect to my atheism, my love connection is a little more nebulous considering that atheism isn’t really a worldview, rather, it’s a lack of belief on a specific question (namely, the existence of gods). But my atheism is a direct result of the skeptical, scientific lens with which I look at the world and that’s what I love. I love the clarity of though, reason, rationality and accurate picture of our existence that results. My atheism, then, is really an outcome of that larger worldview, but it’s a fantastic outcome because it opens up the world for further exploration. I heard a great quote recently from Lawrence Krauss, the famous theoretical physicist, who made this point beautifully: “Scientists love mysteries, they love not knowing. That’s a key part of science, the excitement of learning about the universe. That is so different than the sterile aspect of religions, where the excitement is apparently knowing everything, while clearly knowing nothing.” Religion shuts out further exploration and prevents us from understanding critical things about the nature of the world around us. It encamps us into competing tribes, some of whom want to kill other camps who happen to disagree, and it keeps us from getting the right answers that could improve our world. Science, on the other hand, while not perfect, has a remarkable track record of improving the world and remains the single most reliable method for getting to the right answers.

When it comes to this newfound love of mine, it’s been a bit of a long journey. It has taken me far longer than it took me to realize that I loved my wife. (And for the record, she will always be at the top of my list!) For my epiphany of “being in love” with craft beer and atheism, I have to thank Bill Nye (yup, the “Science Guy”) for his nudging. I’m not sure I necessarily would have realized the depth of my feelings on my own, or thought to express it in these terms, but the expression “in love” really is perfect in both sentiment and simplicity. By now, I’m sure many of you have seen Bill Nye’s brief two-minute video that’s been making its way around the internet. In it, he criticizes “creationism” and advocates for a scientifically literate population. It’s one of the most watched videos on YouTube, and in the event your haven’t seen it yet you can click here to watch it.

Finally, some of you may be asking, “If you are really as in love a you say you are, why are you blogging anonymously and why aren’t you spreading the word by posting on other well-known craft beer or atheism forums?” Perhaps I will do some of that in the near future, but for now, I’m still content writing my love letters and letting whoever wants to read them, read them. I’m inclined to use to the saying “shouting from a mountaintop,” here, but not in the traditional sense. The saying usually implies that the person doing the shouting wants everyone to listen, but let’s think about that critically for a second: What are the odds that someone standing on a mountain would actually be heard by others? I suppose it depends on the altitude of the mountain, proximity to listeners, voice projection, air resistance, etc. Needless to say, for now I’m very content with just those of you who’ve come along with me to hike this mountain being the only ones hearing my message.

Besides, specific issues aside, it should be clear to anyone following U.S. politics that people don’t like to have their firmly held beliefs challenged. Facts, evidence, and reality can be jarring. It’s always been, and will probably always be, much more comfortable for people to stay in their own cocoon. And when it comes to jarring facts and reality, the cocoon of religion is one of the most impenetrable. I’m not sure what makes me or other atheists different in this respect. I love to be proven wrong and wish it would happen more often. This statement doesn’t mean to imply that I think I’m mostly right… In fact, quite the contrary. I realize this may sound a little preachy, but to find the truth in any matter, you’ve got to be willing to trudge through lots of information and you’ve got to be willing to draw conclusions along the way, many of which will be wrong. This is the hard road and the one far less traveled.

I realize that my proclamation today and many of my comments above may seem surprising to some of my friends and family who may be reading this. In fact, many people describe me to be a pretty happy person, but also somewhat cynical, a little pessimistic, and a whole lot critical. But the truth is, above all else I’m simply an optimist who happens to be disappointed with things he sees in the world that need not be so. I can’t help but picture how wonderful the world would be if everyone used logic and reason to guide their lives. The world is truly an amazing place that’s ripe for your exploration. Again, I’ll quote Lawrence Krauss: “Forget Jesus, stars died so that you could be here today!”

(By the way, here’s the link to a great Lawrence Krauss lecture on YouTube called “A Universe From Nothing” where I happened to pull these quotes. If you’ve got an interest in how the world may have come into existence and an hour to spare, it’s highly recommended.)

Until next time, cheers and happy doubting.

~BLA

P.S. I promise (I really, really do this time!) that the next blog will be much shorter and will focus more on craft beer. If you have any thoughts on today’s blog, suggestions, questions, concerns, etc., feel free to comment below or email me at beerlovingatheist@gmail.com.

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