It has been suggested in discussions, both here and elsewhere, that there are "atheist fanatics" and that they are "just the same" as religious fanatics. Personally, I find this assertion ludicrous and loathsome. To me, it is simply a new formulation of the "fundamentalist atheist" canard--it is just a way of trying to get vocal atheists to shut up by bringing social pressure to bear. It is just another way of calling us "intolerant" for daring to think they are wrong. I think this is the first step to forcing us all to either embrace religious belief again or go back in the closet and pretend to embrace religious belief.
So the question for discussion is whether atheistic fanaticism really exists and, if it does, whether or not it is comparable to religious fanaticism.
As I think I have made clear, I do not think that atheistic fanaticism really exists. I think it is just a label put on those atheists who dare to state that they are right and the religious are wrong as a matter of fact. The religious can say this without a label being attached to them; we cannot.
I think it is also clear that even the most extreme atheists do not even remotely come close to the fanaticism of the religious.
When it comes to understanding the universe--especially its origins--humans are not well equipped. Our brains evolved to understand life here on earth and not how the universe came to be. Human attempts to understand the universe often result in attempts to fit cosmology into our earthly experience, which is rather like trying to put a rather large square peg into a tiny round hole. I think that most of the time we are lucky if we ask the right questions, much less have the right answers.
Personally, I question whether the big bang is actually how the universe came to be, in part because of the questions you ask about a lack of center or outer boundaries. There is enough evidence for it for us to assume that something like it happened. I strongly suspect the theory will have to be revised, however, at some point.
The problem is that our understanding of an explosion is not a perfect fit. If the theory is correct, there wasn't a big bang in the sense of an explosion with a center and boundaries, rather the universe suddenly came into existence and began expanding all at once in every direction. This notion is rather difficult for us humans to wrap our heads around because it is alien to our experience.
I am agnostic with regard to the origins of the universe because it is necessarily a phenomenon outside all human experience and, at least in part, outside the very universe itself. It may not be possible for us to understand it.
That said, there is evidence for the big bang. Cosmic background radiation, which was predicted by the theory, has been detected and is consistent with the theory. In addition, the stars furthest away from us are usually first generation stars containing only the simplest elements, which is exactly what one would expect if the big bang were true.
My usual response to questions about the origins of the universe from believers is to point out that no one knows the answer to such questions and only a liar, a madman or a fool would claim to. Most important, I point out that this question is separate from the question of the existence of god and that confusing the two, as most religious people do, shows that they are implicitly engaging in circular reasoning in which the question (the existence of the universe) is said to prove the answer (god).
I think that is an awesome answer. Thank you. It is very honest about our own ability to figure it out and it fits into the kind of agnosticism that I think I gravitate towards. Maybe my problem is I am a big "what if" guy. I'll admit that. But I do like to hope that my "what if" follows a rational train of thought, at least up to the point where we can't track it any longer.
As a lighting designer I sometimes think of the big bang as a "big fade up."
Yes, some atheists are asshats. We have no more right to bully the religious than they have to bully us. If someone doesn't stand up to be the "bigger man", we've already lost.
Yes. Atheists can be fanatics. Just chill. We're right. Yes, religion fucks people up more than it helps them. But we've got to be "cool" about our approach. Changing this world is gonna take TIME. Stop shoving atheism and logic down their throats. Do it "nice". They'll eventually come around