Atheism & The Mystery Machine

Phyllis Tickle recently wrote an article for the New York Times Room for Debate section. The question she is taking on: “Is Atheism a Religion?”

She does admit that atheism is not a religion. She goes on, explaining all the fantastic benefits atheism has to offer. So what’s her issue? Tickle claims that atheism lacks mystery. Atheism on its own is only a rejection of god claims. If that was all I was about, sure my life would lack mystery. However, to claim that religion holds the copyright on mystery is complete bullshit. It also doesn’t prove god claims and it certainly doesn’t make it more virtuous.

Bigfoot is mysterious. So is the Loch Ness Monster.


The whereabouts of the Titanic was a mystery I loved as a child. But guess what, science found it in 1985. Did it make my life meaningless once it was found? No. There are plenty of mysteries in this world. From the basic, “where is my other sock?” to the confusing world of string theory and quantum physics. There is plenty out there for Phyllis to find in the natural world if she could pull herself away from reruns of Murder She Wrote long enough to seek them out.

Tickle is grasping at straws and I find her claim that atheists do not have mystery in their lives insulting.

What is so mysterious about religion anyway? They all pretty much tell the same story. As far as I am concerned, the holy books are fiction. There are plenty of mystery novels at Barnes & Noble if it is mystery you crave. Shit, even Scooby Doo has mystery. Zoinks!

People of the ancient world used to look up at the night sky and think it was so mysterious. Science not only opened our eyes to the reality of the universe but made it so much more awe inspiring. What Phyllis Tickle calls mystery I call ignorance. Just because she doesn’t know something doesn’t mean God did it. It doesn’t make it worthy of praise. The best we can do is try to solve the mystery. But the religious are content on not seeking. If we followed the advice of believers we would still be performing bloodlettings for every ailment. The religious would have kept us in the dark ages with their so-called mysteries. Science brought us out.

What we don’t know science is trying to learn. Anyone who is not enthralled by the beauty of science over religion clearly is ignorant of the world around them. They just are not educating themselves.

A friend recently brought up the mysteries of religion. When pressured to explain what the hell that means, she could only say, “I don’t know. That is why they are mysteries.” Why do they feel to attribute what they don’t know to a god? My answer to that is that these people are being intellectually lazy.

Life offers plenty of mysteries. The atheist just doesn’t attribute them to anything supernatural. We have nature, music and art. We have everything the theist has and more. We have science and logic and reason. If religion thinks having mystery puts them above the secular life, they better make up some new ones because science has solved almost all of the ones they have.

I just think Phyllis Tickle is an old woman stuck in her ways and, like most theists, is trying to hold onto whatever little she has left of her faith. One day, when Science finally proves that god does not exist, the aging theists like Phyllis Tickle will say, “Religion would have survived if it wasn’t for those meddling scientists.” 

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4 responses to “Atheism & The Mystery Machine

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