Recently there was a study that found that there were six types of atheists. Apparently, a disbelief in the supernatural is not a monolithic belief system, held in equal measure by all atheists. Actually, anecdotally, I think we would all say that was somewhat true, though it’s nice to have it confirmed. I often find myself in disagreement with other atheists about matters I would expect to agree on, based on the fact that I know how I arrived at my atheism, and assume that their path to disbelief was at least similar. But, lo, it turns out that doesn’t really work out in real life.
I was reminded of this by a discussion I had recently on Facebook. As I said, I sort of expect other atheists to think like me, so I’m a tad bit surprised when they don’t.
The subject of the discussion was the collapse of World Trade Center Building #7 after the two towers fell on 9/11. A video narrated by Ed Asner was posted and sparked discussion. Not all the participants were atheists, although in all fairness, I really can’t say for sure. I know two of them are. The rest? Not sure. But a lot of them including the atheists seemed open to the possibility suggested by others that the WTC 7, which looked like it fell as a result of a controlled demolition, actually was felled by controlled demolition.
You can see the video they discussed here.
With all these engineers claiming the impossibility of the building coming down as a result of the damage inflicted on the two towers, the obvious conclusion implied, if not explicitly stated, is that someone purposely planted the right kind of explosives in the right place necessary to bring the building down in a controlled demolition. You’ve seen this before. A condemned building is stripped of everything useful, then a demolition company with experience and technical know-how rigs the explosives in carefully placed positions near support columns after designing the series of explosions necessary to bring the building straight down with no possibility it will affect the neighboring buildings. You know where this leads. You can see it coming.
In order for the building to come down on 9/11, almost concurrently with the two towers, someone had to plan it in advance. A lot of planning goes into a controlled demolition. And it had to have a lot of people involved. Explosives had to be planted without the people occupying the building knowing about it. There had to be some coordination with al Qaeda to make sure it came down with the two towers, or around the same time. And a massive cover-up of the entire thing had to be mapped out.
In short, we’re heading into crazy conspiracy theory territory.
Occams Razor says that the simplest explanation for why the building looked like a controlled demolition is probably the best explanation. There are conspiracy websites that claim the government had its hand in it. There are a bunch of websites that debunk the conspiracies, and there are more websites that debunk the debunkers.
I tend to go with Occam who says that WTC 7 came down as a result of forces started when the planes brought down the two 1300 foot towers next to it, not as a result of a massive conspiracy, which in breadth and scope would be far more complicated and difficult to pull off than would simply ascribing the cause to the effects of tons of metal and concrete falling on and around it.
But there are people who buy into this nonsense, including atheists. I don’t understand how someone who rejects supernatural explanations for natural phenomena would embrace conspiratorial explanations for natural mysteries (the mystery here, remember, is how did a skyscraper simply drop in a manner resembling a controlled demolition?). As I said in one of my Facebook responses, “I don’t know how that building came down in such an inexplicable fashion, therefore a conspiracy” sounds suspiciously similar to “I don’t know how life came into existence, therefore God”, doesn’t it? What’s wrong with “I don’t know” and leave it at that? Why do we have to jump through so many hoops to find an answer.
Religion came about, in part, because man, in his ignorance of nature, wanted an explanation for the mysteries of his world, and could not understand how such things could exist without some outside causal actor intentionally creating it. So man invented god(s) as that outside causal agent, and the rest is (religious) history.
But atheists, by their very act of disbelieving in gods because there is no evidence for them, reject that logic. We purposely reject the thinking process that assumes there is an outside causal agent with intelligence that explains the things we don’t know. We don’t believe in the God of the Gaps. But when atheists then turn around, and when presented with a mystery involving something that occurred within their sphere of reality, that seems outside their experiential knowledge, and they immediately grasp at conspiracy theories as an explanation, I can only shake my head in dismay. Did they learn nothing by deconverting from theism? Did they actually embrace critical thinking and the scientific process as a means to shake theism, or are they simply “hating god” like a lot of Christians accuse them, without really giving it much thought? I’m beginning to think there something to the latter, when I see them embrace conspiracy theories.
With regard to this particular conspiracy theory, much of it stems from a distrust of government, and I fully understand that. Recent events can lead one to think that the government lies. Bush got us into two wars and destroyed the economy on the basis of deceit and duplicity. But it takes a massive leap of logic to jump from power and money-hungry politicians anxious to retain that power and money for themselves and their rich benefactors, to subscribing to a theory that has thousands of people, who gain nothing from the conspiracy, maintaining a level of silence about a pre-planned and extensive conspiracy to kill thousands of innocent people for the same purpose. This theory we discussed and I rejected had others claiming that the plane that hit the Pentagon wasn’t really a plane at all, it was a cruise missile. That Ted Olson, the then Solicitor General, was in on the conspiracy, as was his wife (who died on the flight) and apparently so was everyone else on her flight, and their respective families, and the Airline that must have surreptitiously disposed of the plane. And when I point out that there was evidence of the debris from the plane that hit the Pentagon they claim “evidence can be faked”. Seriously! That’s their refutation. Oh, and all the major news organizations were in on it too because they substituted fake news broadcasts that show the planes flying into the WTC for the real ones that show no such thing (ignoring the millions of people on the southern end of Manhattan that saw it with their own eyes, who of course must also be in on the conspiracy).
Does this sound like critical thinking to you?
It doesn’t to me either, so the cold hard reality that there are atheists that think differently than I do, not just about their atheism, but everything else, is not longer a surprise.