Sun 9 Nov, 2008 11:30 pm
Greetings to all...
As a former Atheist of 17 years (until a few months ago) and a long-time online forum user ('89-present), I would like to address a few misconceptions about atheism which seem to be everpresent in philosophical / theological discussions. Indeed, I've seen some on this forum...
1) Atheism is about theism; nothing else.
Atheism is simply a disbelief in a "god" / creator / supernatural intelligence / etc. It is a theistic theory just as theism and deism and polytheism are theistic theories.
Atheism, in itself, says nothing whatsoever about morality theory or ontology. It only speaks to theistic theory. Nothing else is implied.
2) Atheism is not unified.
In other words, not all atheists believe the same things and should not be addressed as if they do. Tying in to #1, all atheists have their own unique takes on morality, ethics, cosmology, ontology, and such.
For example, some atheists believe in moral relativism, some do not. Some are Nihilists, some are not. Some believe in spirituality, some do not. Etc, etc.
I can't count the number of times that I've have people say, "If you're an atheist, prove the Big Bang happened!" -- I've told them: "Guess what? Not all atheists believe the same thing. I personally think Origin Theory is irrelevant to my life and couldn't care less, thus I have no opinion on it."
Bottom line: just like every theist, every atheist is an individual and should be treated as such. Just as theists hate having generalizations made about them, the same is true for atheists.
3) Atheists in general do not declare, "There is no God!"
Atheists do not believe in a god, whereas theists do believe in a god.
I've bold'ed the word "believe" because this point is of critical importance.
It is impossible for anyone to prove or disprove the existence of a god. To every argument, yea or nay, there is an exception. Thus, all we have is belief.
Certainly there are some, usually young and/or uneducated, who will say, "There is no God - period!" But when put to a logical test, they cannot absolutely prove this. The same is true for theists. [Sidebar: even though I am now a theist, I cannot prove to anyone my beliefs; they are beliefs.]
However, the educated atheist will typically say, "I do not believe in a god."
If I had a dime for every time some person said, "Prove God doesn't exist!" I could pay Paris Hilton's income taxes for three years.
4) Atheists in general are not anti-Christian nor anti-religious.
Atheists certainly do not agree with the theistic principles of most religions, but that doesn't automatically make them Ad Hoc enemies either.
All too often, especially on religious forums, those who follow religion are quick to demonize and belittle atheists as their 'enemy'. -- Who made this rule? Not only is this concept the antithesis of most religions in reguards to ethical directives, it is undeserved on any rational basis.
5) Not all atheists are fundamentalists (eg. militants).
Just as there are fundamentalist Christians and fundamentalist Moslems, so too are there fundamentalist atheists.
Fundamentalists are generally irrational, illogical, uneducated (beyond the surface level of their philosophy), and filled with rage and/or hate.
In Christianity, for example, fundamentalists make up only a small percentage of the entire religion (eg. about 2%). Most Christians are moderates of varying degrees. The same is true for Atheism.
Certainly there are people who hate religion and seek to be activists against it, but the vast majority of atheists are simply people who want to live their own lives and maintain their own beliefs.
There are many Buddhists, Confuscianists, Taoists, Neo-Paganists, Sikhs, and others who are atheist yet they make no practice of going out and attacking (metaphorically speaking) those who do not share their views.
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I hope that this message is received by the theistic population here and I hope it clears up some of the misconceptions that seem to be prevalent in reguards to Atheists.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Both sides often commit the fallacy of division and that of reductionism. It is one thing to use a convenient short-hand term to describe a group of people, but another entirely to then use it as evidence or proof.
I'm as quick as anyone to make generalizations. Generalizations aren't always wrong, but making the generalization usually is. But it's a small thing to condemn someone for, since just about everyone does it to one degree or another. Usually issues with it can be cleared up with a little communication.
Out of curiosity, which religion convinced a die-hard atheist of 17 years to join them?
I find the problem you have is that certain atheist question your belief system...i have a belief system even as an agnostic and i find my defence inadequate at times but its the nature of the monster..debate..it takes no prisoners..
1) I don't think atheism can be ONLY about the metaphysical arguments for/against God, because theism is not either. Atheism comes into contact with morality and/or ontology on the same levels as theism does, serving as a refutation of their principle claims (God exists) they also take issue with the categorical results of that claim. While atheism is, in itself, not an ontology or an ethical system it would be a mistake to say that it exists outside of ontology or morality: it is not prescriptive of them, but does serve as a criticism of certain systems of theism (which contains both ontology and morality, as well as others). But this is fairly limited, and I think your point that atheism does not describe a view of, say, morality in the same way that a specific theism would.
2) As much as this is true, certain generalizations CAN be made about atheists, just as much as theists. These remain limited, but there is an obvious connection between all atheists just as there is between all theists: their stance on the (non-)existence of God. While there are obvious discrepancies between all atheists (and mostly for theists as well) it can be useful to treat them as a (disparatly) unified group, at least to the point where they agree on being atheists and the specific claims that makes.
3) You make the addenum I require here. Most atheists simply operate as if there is no God, not believing in God. There are a few (often described as 'militant' or 'fundamentalist' atheists) who proclaim loudly that "there is no God." Not that they don't believe in God, but that there is no God. But you identified this; while they are an incredibly small minority of atheists they do create a lot of noise.
4) This operates just as '3)' does. There are very few who are anti-Christian or anti-(specific religion) but they do make a large portion of the noise. Atheism itself is often better described as a-religious, while those who take an anti-religious stance are the exception, rather than the rule.
5) Hit the nail on the head here. I fear fundamentalists, be they Christian, Muslim or atheist. They don't give their group a bad name, they give humanity a bad name.
Thanks for the clarifications. I hope these can be a guideline for atheist-theist argumentation here (for both sides) to keep everything civil. In such a touchy area it is good for these topics to be elucidated.
(This becomes especially prevalent with preachy Roosters running around asserting their beliefs as absolute truth. A lot of talking from those who don't lay eggs.)