Random Stuff I Think About


Today I was pondering a couple of useless things. I *could* focus my brain power towards more constructive things but this random stuff keeps popping up. For instance: Can you be a fairy godmother if you don’t believe in fairies. This led to deeper pondering that actually led to meaningful thoughts. Funny how that works sometimes.

Then it occurred to me that in order to be a fairy godmother, you would, in all likelihood BE an actual fairy. But sadly lots of people don’t believe in themselves. They don’t trust their own abilities or skills. Or they have a couple setbacks and the failure sends them into a depressive spiral that leads them to believe that what they thought they could do was just an illusion. When, in fact, with just a little bit of guidance they could be really good at what they set out to do.

So, maybe you CAN be a fairy godmother if you don’t believe in fairies.

Maybe.

This led me to ponder the following: Can you be a godmother if you aren’t religious. Traditionally a godparent is someone that is supposed to guide the child in the ways of religion and bring them up in the church. In modern times, godparents have become just Mom or Dad’s best friend and the parents themselves do the religious teaching. Of course there are also parents that are atheist/non-believers who have friends that act as godparents (godlessparents??) I actually rather like that word: Godlessparent. But I digress. And that’s hard to do on an aimless ramble such as this.

Ken and I have a young friend who we enjoy hanging out with. We’ve known him for three years and even though he’s somewhat agnostic, he calls us his godparents. He knows that I’m an atheist and Ken is agnostic, yet he still uses that word. It doesn’t bother me. I find it pretty hilarious to be perfectly honest. I think I need to talk to him and find out his reasoning.

What do you think? Can godless people be godparents?

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6 Comments

  1. latsot said,

    February 15, 2011 at 8:52 am

    My wife is an (effectively) godless godparent. While she occasionally feels she might believe in some sort of higher power, I think she does it out of a sense of loyalty to her upbringing and I don’t believe she really believes. She certainly has nothing to do with organised religion and I’ve never known her do anything as silly as pray. But she’s a godparent and doesn’t feel at all hypocritical being so.

    I’d probably have been asked to be a godparent too, but the idea of me renouncing the devil in a church was too difficult for anyone to contemplate. I think they were genuinely terrified about what I might have said, but there’d have been no need, I think. I’d probably have said the mumbo jumbo and meant the part about looking after the kid’s interests, if not its religious interests. It’s not as though the parents are remotely religious either.

    I don’t think I’d have felt very hypocritical if they’d asked me. I’ve no particular problem lying to vicars. If the parents were religious, though, and were sincerely asking me to aid in the kid’s religious upbringing, I’d certainly have said no.

    But of course, there was no need for a ceremony, especially one nobody involved believed in.

    I’m not convinced about the term ‘godlessparent’. I think the role of godless godparent is just ‘friend’. If you can be someone the kid can talk to when it doesn’t want to tell its parents; if you can be there to give the kind of advice its parents wouldn’t give, but still be considered a safe person because of your friendship with the parents, then I think you’re a godparent, godless or not, ceremony or no. It’s the exact same job as ‘uncle’, I think: unconditional love without the responsibility of having to be a parent.

  2. latsot said,

    February 15, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    >So, maybe you CAN be a fairy godmother if you don’t believe in fairies.

    Or, more likely, you can’t be a fairy godmother regardless of whether you believe in fairies or not, because even if you believe in them, they aren’t there. Not believing in your ability to turn a pumpkin into a coach is really rather different from doubting you can do things other people can demonstrably do.

    Self doubt might hamper your ability to be a godparent, but not your ability to be a fairy godparent.

  3. February 15, 2011 at 4:38 pm

    Ahh, but at this point in time we cannot prove definitively that there are no fairies in existence. After all, you cannot prove a negative. This is the same as proving that there are invisible pink unicorns. The scientific method does not allow for that type of inquiry.

    That is not to say that fairies DO exist. Merely that our tools do not allow us to prove that they do not.

    • latsot said,

      February 15, 2011 at 4:55 pm

      I can prove lots of negatives, actually. Can’t you?

      I can’t prove faries don’t exist, of course, but it is nonsense to say that the scientific method doesn’t address this. The scientific method says without question that fairies, unicorns, gods and all manner of other idiotic notions don’t exist because there is no evidence whatsoever for them and – crucially – plenty of evidence against them.

      Nobody has ever seen a fairy and we know that things like fairies simply can’t exist if the laws of physics are how we think they are. Until there’s a better reason than sheer fancy to suspect the laws of physics are completely wrong…..and a reformulation of them that explains these new phenomena….then the scientific method absolutely and without question says that fairies don’t exist.

      You can quibble all you like about the technical truth that nobody can prove fairies don’t exist, but by the same token noboday can prove you, or gravity or gravy do exist. All you’re doing is insisting on different standards of proof for different things in order to make a point and it doesn’t get us anywhere.

      • February 16, 2011 at 12:35 am

        That’s the thing though, when I was neck deep in woo, I saw all kinds of things: Fairies, ghosts, auras. And I’m not alone in this. LOTS of people claim to have seen things and to them, that’s proof. We deal with this kind of thing all the time. I know now that I was either imagining it or having hypnogogic or hypnopompic hallucinations.

        I’m about to split hairs here. I maintain that I cannot offer proof of the non-existence of fairies. I can only offer evidence that shows a high probability that they do not exist. As of yet, I lack the knowledge of alternate dimension theory and quantum mechanics to maintain that they may not exist there and “bleed over” into this dimension. Does this make sense?

        I know…I know… This screams of Woo. They probably don’t exist in other dimensions either. But do you see my point? It may just be semantics here. I’m not sure.

  4. latsot said,

    February 16, 2011 at 2:41 am

    I don’t think you’re splitting hairs, but I do think you misunderstand something about the nature of proof in science. You’re perfectly correct that things like fairies can’t be disproved with mathematical certainty. But science doesn’t attempt to do that. It never has. It’s not something that science in any form we’d recognise today has ever even aspired to. So my point was just that as far as the scientific method is concerned, fairies are disproved not just because we can’t find evidence for them, but also because there’s so much evidence that they don’t exist.

    The fact that the scientific method doesn’t tell us with mathematical certainty that faires don’t exist (because we might find out that everything we know about physics and biology are wrong) shouldn’t be considered a weakness. Quite the reverse, in fact, because the scientific conclusion is based on empirical facts. To think that mathematical proof is somehow stronger because it results in 100% certainty is to make a category error and it can be quite harmful. Its the exact error creationists exploit when they say evolution is ‘only a theory’. It’s not only a theory, it’s also a fact. We have stone cold proof that evolution is true even though this proof is only provisional and might turn out to be wrong.

    So my point is that I’m 100% certain that fairies don’t exist. That’s also provisional, of course, and I might be wrong. My mind is open to new evidence, but the evidence of fairies would have to be extraordinary indeed.

    I understand that lots of people *believe* they see fairies, but I think we can agree that they don’t. We can test whether they are seeing fairies or not, *in principle*, even if we consider your other dimensions theory. We don’t have to test every single believed fairy sighting by every single person in the world in order to conclude with absolute certainty that they aren’t seeing fairies any more than we should be surprised every day when the sun comes up.

    If lots of people start seeing the same fairy at the same time or we find evidence of other dimensions that can somehow extrude into ours, then we might have to change our conclusion, but that’s not at all the same thing as being less than 100% certain. I hope I’m making myself clear here: because science relies on evidence, we can never be sure that new evidence won’t overturn our conclusions. But we can still say that we’re 100% certain of things, given what we know now.


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