Sunday, October 17, 2010

How to Define Atheism

For a while now, atheists have labored to alter the definition of "atheism" so as to give the impression that the default state of anyone is atheism, therefore placing all of the burden of proof on theists. I recently pointed out elsewhere that this position pretty much strips the word of any sort of force at all. Simply filling people in on your current mental state isn’t very interesting at all. We could argue semantics I suppose, but that would be equally uninteresting. Heck, my 3 month old daughter would pretty much be an a-everything, since she lacks all sorts of beliefs.

Not only that, but it makes the atheist position basically no threat to theism at all. Theists argue that there is a God, that God actually exists. If atheists are simply people that lack this belief, then their position suddenly becomes of no consequence to the theist. Okay, you lack that belief, so what? There's nothing to argue with there. They haven't really taken a position, they've just told us what their mental state happens to be.

So, if this is what atheism actually is, then more power to them. Atheists just lack belief in God. Great. Apparently they lack the testicular fortitude to make up their mind about whether He actually does exist as well.

14 comments:

rrlane said...

There IS no "force" to atheism. You are correct in that. It's not a movement, religion, or philosophy. It's simply a statement that describes one thing that people don't believe in. It's useful in shorthand, but it's a little silly. I don't don't describe myself as "a-santa" or "a-unicorn," or "a" anything else that I don't believe in.

You are also correct in that atheists shouldn't be of any concern to theists at all. As long as theists don't attempt to foist their beliefs on others in politics or public education, all the atheists I know are more than willing to live and let live.

Sadly, that's not normally the case in the United States, let alone the world.

thechemistscorner said...

That's right theists. Just sit back and let humanists foist their beliefs on others in politics and public education.

Anyway, I agree BMH. I have grown tired of hearing atheists reduce their position down to this level. In my opinion, it is an attempt to avoid having to substantiate their worldview.

rrlane said...

Who's "foisting"? Where's the atheist lobby in congress? Where are the atheists going door to door asking people if they've heard the good word of a universe without a creator? What school has students say a pledge that includes the phrase, "One nation...without a god...indivisible..."?

That's a silly argument at best. The most you can reasonably say is that more atheists these days are being more adamant about separation of church and state, and that is hardly what you are suggesting.

Second, atheism isn't a world view. It's conclusion made from a lack of evidence...period.

Seth said...

I would have to disagree rrlane about atheism not being a worldview. Worldview, put simply, is how a person views the world around them and under a disbelief in God, that person views the world a lot different than a person that does believe in God.

I would say that there are atheists in American Government that are putting their ideas out there, e.g., homosexual marriage, abortion, Utopian society with big government, just to name a few (I'm not saying ONLY atheists believe in those ideas, please don't think I'm saying that). No, atheists don't go door-to-door "evangelizing" that there is no God, but they do in blogs and other popular media. No, atheists don't have a pledge for students to say in public school, but again atheist ideas are in public school curriculum.

rrlane said...

So they say it in blogs. Are you forced to read it?

If you are saying that is "foisting" then logically you must believe that this blog we are now on is "foisting" religion at everyone. If you are stating that one is right and the other wrong, you are advocating a hypocritical stance.

As for homosexual marriage, if you don't want to marry a homosexual, I will fight for you to have the right not to. Other than that, it's not yours or my business.

Finally, atheistic ideas are NOT apart of the curriculum of public schools. If a student wishes to pray in school, he may. If a teacher wishes to pray in school, he may. If a student wishes to not believe in gods, he is free to do so. If I as a teacher do not believe in gods, I am free to do so. I teach Milton, Bunyan, Donne, and Hopkins in my English class, and the students are free to agree or disagree with the ideas presented as they wish.

Seth said...

So they say it in blogs. Are you forced to read it?

I didn't say that the ideas are forced onto us, if I implied that the, shame on me. :)

What I said was: I would say that there are atheists in American Government that are putting their ideas out there,...

I didn't mean to imply "foisting."

Further, I was merely showing that one doesn't have to go door-to-door to share his/her worldview with others. Just because I go to an atheist blog and read it to understand his/her's thoughts, no that doesn't mean I will accept it. That same atheist blogger, if he/she came to my door to talk with me and I let them in to have a discussion, no that doesn't mean I have to accept their view. That was my point to show that no, atheists don't go door-to-door (that I know of anyway), but they do share their thoughts (just like many others) with blogs and many other media outlets. The web is the new door-to-door. :)

rrlane said...

I would disagree with the analogy. Someone banging on my door that I don't want to talk to is an inconvenience. I have to *choose* to go online, thus I have to take the responsibility for what I read.

No, you didn't say "foist," however I inferred that you were taking issue with atheists putting their ideas "out there." If you aren't, no worries...we don't have a disagreement. I, too, believe that those ideas are now out there. If that's all that's being said, um...I guess we're done here?

Seth said...

lol, yeah I guess we're done here. No, I don't take issues with people expressing opinions on matters.

bossmanham said...

rrlane,

Thanks for stopping by.

There IS no "force" to atheism. You are correct in that. It's not a movement, religion, or philosophy.

That's be news to the atheists who consider it a movement and a major philosophical position. You should also tell all of the famous atheist philosophers of old, like Frederick Nietzsche, Bertrand Russel, Antony Flew (who became a theist), or modern philosophers like Quentin Smith, Austin Dacey, Graham Oppy, etc. News to them.

You are also correct in that atheists shouldn't be of any concern to theists at all. As long as theists don't attempt to foist their beliefs on others in politics or public education, all the atheists I know are more than willing to live and let live.

Apparently you have in mind some sort of physical confrontation here, but there is also something known as the battlefield of ideas, where ideas are presented and contend for acceptance. I am saying that the theistic worldview has nothing to fear from atheism if all it is is a description of one's mental state.

Now, if atheism is the stance that God does not exist, then that's something of another sort.

But I normally don't fear atheists will want to beat me up or something, though I do fear a society that would adhere to consistent atheism.

Who's "foisting"? Where's the atheist lobby in congress? Where are the atheists going door to door asking people if they've heard the good word of a universe without a creator?

ACLU, Dan Barker's Freedom From Religion foundation that sues at the drop of a hat, American Atheists...I could go on. How do you think so many secular things have been accomplished in the public square, such as banning prayer in schools? How have so many secular agenda items been mandated in schools, such as the teaching of Darwinian evolution solely, and the banning of any questioning of the theory? Through atheists foisting their ideas on us through the courts.

Now, I don't mind the spread of one's ideas, and encourage active dialog in the public square, even if it challenges the existence of God. I try to engage atheists often. But atheist ideals are being forced on the public by using the courts, not the legislative process.

I appreciate your pleasant tone and reading my post. Thank you!

rrlane said...

Prayers aren't banned in school. I see kids praying there quite often, so that's a fallacy. School *sponsored* prayer is banned, and it should be. So should statements proclaiming there are no gods. Atheists get no special treatment there. Public school is to remain neutral on the position of religion. A teacher can neither preach to a class about his religion nor make authoritative claims of the lack of gods' existence. Not allowing theists to force their opinions on others is NOT an infringement of their rights, and groups that insist on enforcing the Constitution are not pushing an atheist agenda, they're enforcing a civil libertarian one. The really sad part is that so many theists don't grasp this protects THEIR rights to their beliefs as much as it does anyone else's. You wouldn't want to have schools make students bow to Mecca during the day, would you?

bossmanham said...

Prayers aren't banned in school. I see kids praying there quite often, so that's a fallacy. School *sponsored* prayer is banned, and it should be.

Why? Why is congress allowed to open in prayer, but school isn't? Does praying immediately mean a state religion is being instituted? I can't see how that would follow, especially in schools where there is no power to do so. Now, if we're coercing kids to pray, that's another issue.

A teacher can neither preach to a class about his religion nor make authoritative claims of the lack of gods' existence.

I agree here, but I'm not sure a prayer constitues preaching.

The really sad part is that so many theists don't grasp this protects THEIR rights to their beliefs as much as it does anyone else's. You wouldn't want to have schools make students bow to Mecca during the day, would you?

You're correct. I think that would be the promotion of a specific religion. But, general prayer isn't, is it?

rrlane said...

Why? Why is congress allowed to open in prayer, but school isn't?

Easy. Congress shouldn't be doing it either.

Does praying immediately mean a state religion is being instituted?

If you are mandating all students participate or stand exclusion while the rest of the school is in official prayer mode, yes it is.

You're correct. I think that would be the promotion of a specific religion. But, general prayer isn't, is it?

Yes. If you are requiring prayers be said, you excluding those who do not pray.

I don't have a problem with a moment of silence which allows those who wish to pray to do so and those who don't to organize their thoughts for day or silently go over the lyrics of a song if if they want. But the moment there is a prayer itself that is mandated, it's an exclusionary practice. Even if we exclude the rights of atheists for a moment, how do you come up with a prayer that works for Protestants, Catholics, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Jainists, Shintoists, Wiccans, Animists, Scientologists, and Pagans all at the same time?

bossmanham said...

Easy. Congress shouldn't be doing it either.

Again, why? What's the argument? It's not in the constitution, so what?

If you are mandating all students participate or stand exclusion while the rest of the school is in official prayer mode, yes it is.

No one forced anyone to pray when prayer was done in schools.

Yes. If you are requiring prayers be said, you excluding those who do not pray.

Who said anything about requirement? If a student doesn't want to pray, then they don't have to.

You might get my full input on this in the comment section here. Seems like a lot of the same stuff is being brought up.

rrlane said...

So you'd be cool with a prayer to Allah being mandated to be said aloud over the loudspeakers and led by teachers everyday in school here in the United States as long as your kids don't have to?

It seems to me that is very easy to speak for prayer in school as long as you're reasonably assured that it agrees with your personal beliefs. I sincerely doubt you'd consider the above scenario to be as rosy.