I am an atheist.

There.

Simple.

Concise.

Understandable.

Or is it?

There are many ways of defining atheism, each one more convoluted than the last and each one with its own parameters for what is and isn’t atheism. Here, I hope to lay out my own views on this matter and try to tackle what I think are some misconceptions about atheism.

First of all, atheism has two similar yet distinct meanings:

1.) Without God.
2.) Without Theism.

The first encompasses all aspects of atheism that you’d expect and certain spiritual practices or philosophies such as certain forms of Buddhism, Taoism and Paganism. Under this definition an atheist is a person with no belief in god. Now, and this is very important, atheism is not necessarily an unbelief (active rejection) in god. In my experience, most atheists have a non-belief (passive rejection) in god. (I shall explain both passive and active rejection further into this post.)

The second excludes those certain spiritual practices that I’ve mentioned and focuses solely on  viewpoints that do not encompass any form of supernatural phenomenon. In my experience, there are four main viewpoints under this definition.

a.) Agnosticism
b.) Ignosticism
c.) Apatheism
d.) Anti-theism

Agnosticism means not knowing whether god exists or not because the evidence presented in favour of theism isn’t enough. Contrary to popular belief this is a form of atheism. After all, you can’t believe in a deity/supernatural phenomena if you don’t know that it exists, so you are put into the default position of not believing in a deity/supernatural phenomena. Furthermore, agnosticism is not a “weak” position as some of the “stronger” atheists put it. It is the default, rational position that anybody presented with an extraordinary claim would take. Of course, some agnostics have a much lower threshold of necessary evidence for the existence of god than others, but that is a discussion for another day. (Agnostics have a passive rejection of theism)

Ignosticsim is precisely the same as agnosticism, except that ignostics ask this of any claimants before considering any evidence: “Define deity/supernatural phenomena.” If they are not satisfied with the definition, then they will not consider the evidence as an agnostic would. I consider myself to be an ignostic.  (Ignostics have a passive rejection of theism)

Apatheism means exactly what you’d expect, apathy about theism. This is where a person takes the default position as an atheist simply because they don’t care about spiritual or supernatural matters. (Apatheists have a passive rejection of theism)

Anti-theism is the boogeyman of atheism. An anti-theist is an atheist because they explicitly and vehemently oppose theism in all its forms. They are atheist fundamentalists. Thankfully, outside of some Internet trolls there are very few anti-theists. Even the egregious* Richard Dawkins, by his own admission, isn’t an anti-theist. Though his dismissive and occasionally pompous attitude might lead you to think otherwise. Please forgive him, he’s from Oxbridge you see. (Anti-theists have an active rejection of theism)

By now you’re probably wondering what I mean by passive and active rejection. Well, I’ll try to explain it with the following situations.

Passive Rejection:

Person A: I believe that this (insert extraordinary claim) here is true.

Person B: Could you show me some evidence to back up your claim?

Person A: *Presents evidence*

Person B: Sorry, your evidence does not substantiate your claim, therefore I reject it.

Active Rejection:

Person A: I believe that this (insert extraordinary claim) here is true.

Person B: No! You’re wrong and stupid. Go play in the sand box.

Essentially, active rejection is the jerkass position.

And now to dispel some commonly held myths about atheism:

Myth 1: Atheism is just as much a religion as any other religion.

Fact 1: Atheism is as much a religion as bald is a hair colour or a vacuum is a volume of gas.

Myth 2: Atheists are amoral as they have no god to give them morality.

Fact 2: Most atheists consider morality to be essential to the human condition and most again follow Humanist teachings about morality.

Myth 3: Atheists hate religion.

Fact 3: Most atheists consider religion, by itself, to be either irrelevant or mildly annoying. It is only religious overreach that atheists really do not like.

Well, there you have it folks. I leave you with this little ditty.

 

 

*egregious:
Hacker: What does “egregious” mean?
Humphrey: Um, I think it means outstanding. … In one way or another.
— Yes, Minister., “The Death List”

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funksands
Member

I liked your post Caru.

Myth 2 is especially Myth-y as I am an atheist and have not eaten my children, become a serial killer, torn a tag off a mattress… Yet.

I suppose that my amorality may rise up and compell me to perform a barbaric act of evil someday. But until then I shall live a quiet life and and laugh as the world trundles by.

foxisms
Guest

Believe in everything and believe in nothing.
In the end, we all share common ground.
So, why not?
Just try not to hurt anybody along the way.
Luv the viddie!

whatsthatsound
Member

There are PLENTY of atheists in foxholes!
They’re called “foxes”.

KillgoreTrout
Member

This is the 1st ideogram out of 81 that make up the Tao Te Ching;

“The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.

The name that can be named is not the eternal name.

The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth.

The named is the mother of ten thousand things.

Ever desireless, one can see the mystery.

Ever desiring, one can see the manifestations.

These two spring from the same source but differ in name;

this appears as darkness.

Darkness within darkness.

The gate to all mystery.”

Lao Tsu

KillgoreTrout
Member

I posted this the other day, on another thread, but I think it would fit nicely here;

KillgoreTrout
Member

Kalima, I said We can SEE water, and FEEL…etc. That was in reply to wts’ analogy of the numerous descriptions of deities and the numerous words for water.
All I meant by that is I have never seen a deity, and I have never met another who has.

whatsthatsound
Member

actually, from a certain perspective, one might say you are meeting deities all the time. The Sanskrit word “namaste” means “The god in me salutes the god in you”.

KillgoreTrout
Member

Yes, in that sense I agree. The same with Hindus. This is why they fold their hands in a prayer posture and bow slightly when greeting another person. They are paying homage to the divinity within the other person.

Kalima
Admin

I’m hoping to meet one when I pass on to the next stage, but knowing my bad sense of direction, I will probably get lost and miss them altogether. 😉

whatsthatsound
Member

just hop in a cab and say, “Driver, take me to a place where the deities hang out”!

Kalima
Admin

Oh wts, nan chome deshoka, and do they have taxis on the other side?? 😆

whatsthatsound
Member

It’s like Venice on the other side. The taxis only take you to a certain point and after that you have to use your wings, IF you’re one of the lucky ones.

Kalima
Admin

Not so sure about those wings my friend, I might just have to row and sing Italian love songs to get to the other side.

Kalima
Admin

“Kalima, maybe you better read that quote again. I think you you completely misunderstood it.”

KT, I would suggest that you read my comment again because I also believe that you have completely misunderstood it. Yes you said that we can’t see God, and I explained why I thought that in my case it was not a good enough reason to not believe, that was all I was trying to say.

All I asked about the quote was if another’s written opinion was infallible?

KillgoreTrout
Member

But I never said anyone should not believe. And neither did Campbell.

Kalima
Admin

Where did I say you did?

It’s early in the morning here and I’m not up long, but I don’t think I said “you” and was referring to people who say that they don’t believe it because they can’t see it, and then go on to describe us as delusional. I meant nothing more, nothing less.

KillgoreTrout
Member

“Yet you believe and quote the words of another man who writes about mythology as if they were gospel or he were infallible.”

Maybe this is where the confusion lies.

Kalima
Admin

Yes I’m sure you are right. I should have said “if” instead of “yet” and made it into the question I wanted to ask you. I’m sorry, as I said, I just got up and yes, that sounded rather abrupt, although it wasn’t intended to come out that way. Rereading it, I didn’t add a question mark at the end of the first sentence, my bad.

KillgoreTrout
Member

OK, I see. No apologies necessary.

Kalima
Admin

It wasn’t about just one man’s quote, it was about many I read here and there, and no, I’m not talking about you or here.

Maybe I’m just not happy with the word “myth”, because like wts, I believe that there must have been something very powerful for the beginnings of each religion, what that was is left up to each individual to decide I think.

KillgoreTrout
Member

No biggie Kalima. I just didn’t understand your defensive posture in regards to the Campbell quote. 😉

KillgoreTrout
Member

From Joseph Campbell;

“Anyone who has had an experience of mystery knows that there is a dimension of the universe that is not that which is available to his senses. There is a pertinent saying in one of the Upanishads; “When before the beauty of a sunset or of a mountain you pause and exclaim ‘Ah,’ you are participating in divinity.” Such a moment of participation involves a realization of the wonder and sheer beauty of existence. People living in the world of Nature experience such moments everyday. They live in the recognition of something there that is much greater than the human dimension. Man’s tendency however, is to personify such experiences, to anthropomorphize natural forces.”

Mightywoof
Member

As an atheist I heartily concur with your Myth 3 – personally, I am utterly indifferent to religion and spirituality. I only get anti-religion when those darned people turn up at my front door with bible in hand seeking to save me from whatever misery they think will befall the rest of us for not thinking like them. I am no longer polite when I see them and it helps that I have the ferocious Mightywoof at my side. I view proselytizers in much the same way I view anyone trying to sell me something at my front door. I have a family member who was ‘saved’ and this family member turned into the most self-righteous arsehole I’ve ever met and we no longer talk – I miss the person I once knew but the person who now inhabits that body is a total stranger to me; if this is what religion does to someone then I want no part of it.

Having said that, I have met some wonderful people who live their faith every day – many of them right here on the Planet. They are wonderful, warm, non-judgmental and caring human beings. I don’t understand the need to believe in a higher being but I do respond to those who, having chosen that way of life, embrace humankind rather than judge and condemn it – people like this are, in my experience, few and far between.

ADONAI
Member

As a non practicing Deist, I pretty much live in a world between atheism and religion.

I have a strong belief in a higher intelligence, a higher plane, a possible “architect”(or architects) of the universe. But I’m not entirely sure.

As much as I reject organized religion and a belief in an active , human like GOD, I also reject most scientific theory claiming to know the beginning of the universe.

Mostly because I doubt a creature as tiny and insignificant as human beings, who are barely aware of the universe they inhabit, can be absolutely sure about a goddamn thing.

What pops up more in human history? Right or wrong? Wrong. By a landslide. Right only emerges after wrong has had it’s way with the place.

Absolute atheism and absolute zealotry are incompatible with a universe than knows no absolutes. There are no impossibilities. Only improbability. There is knowledge and there is wisdom. Too many confuse them.

jkkFL
Guest

ADONAI, I think that’s where I am, too. There are too many interacting forces for me to buy ‘happy accident.’ The Universe seems carefully calibrated and finely tuned to me; so I absolutely agree that the mostly lizard-brain humanoids are capable of providing me with a plausible explanation.
I do accept evolution- but only to a degree..living with alligators has influenced that, perhaps!

ADONAI
Member

jkk, If I can expand on Caru’s reply a bit, there is a certain mathematical elegance to the way everything moves and reacts in the universe but, over all, it is a very random chaotic place. That is the main thing that keeps me from putting total faith in a GOD as defined by modern religion.

And Caru is right in that very small changes in how the universe came together would nullify our existence. Even if a tiny chunk of the matter that made the universe were removed, the uniformity we perceive wouldn’t exist. Like wise if just a little more were added. I’m not a big believer in coincidence either, everything happens for a reason, but we do seem to be lucky to be here.

We landed in just the right spot, at just the right distance from our star, with Jupiter in just the right place to protect us from mos t of the asteroids wandering by. It does seem like we were placed here knowingly. And we seem to be alone in our neighborhood. You would think we would have found a signal from our closest neighbors by now. Unless they’re way behind us.

But I don’t think we will ever answer any of the bigger questions till we find someone else out there looking for those answers too.

KillgoreTrout
Member

What I wonder is, suppose we found those answers. Then what? What do we do with such immaculate information?

Bauart
Member

Nicely stated!

I have traveled a long road to my current position; beginning as a Christian, then a fundamentalist Christian, then Apatheism, Ignosticsim, Agnosticism, and now finally Anti-theism.

I don’t believe my path is unique. A person leaving religion will seldom jump from belief all the way to anti-theism, but instead most will gradually progress from one stage to another. So, when I find someone who claims one position over another it’s often interesting to learn where they are on their journey and if they are still evolving. Anti-theism isn’t the ultimate destination for all, but I would guess most who hold that position got there gradually.

I might disagree with your description of Anti-theism. Instead of calling believers stupid and child-like, I tend to think of them as misinformed, or more often they are just careful about not challenging their own beliefs. Nudging that complacency to not question their own beliefs is where most anti-theist get the bad rap. We know, usually first hand, that if you can get a person to truly ask themselves, “Why do I believe?” that the only truthful answer is [usually] not strong enough to keep believing.

I find the strongest argument against religion is the sheer volume of different beliefs. It has been estimated that there have been about 3000 different religions. Of those about 2870 claim their god(s) to be a deity. So, most religious believers are quite comfortable with Atheism and actively reject 2869 other religions. I just go one god further.

jkkFL
Guest

Bauart, my question: If we examine the major ‘religions’ does it not make sense to compare how they are similar?
The differences could be resultant from anything from climate to history.
It seems to me that the similarities would be more informative. I have no background in mythology or religion- but of the ones I am familiar with, I find striking similarities.

whatsthatsound
Member

The “I just go one god further” rationale can be reversed to indicate that there IS some form of deity, and that people are simply seeing and interpreting it differently. The fact that there are hundreds, if not thousands of different words in many languages for “water” indicates that water DOES, rather than doesn’t, exist.

KillgoreTrout
Member

Yeah, but you can SEE water and FEEL water and TASTE water.

jkkFL
Guest

AH! but a blind man Can ‘see’ a camel, elephant or a cat. They just don’t see it in the same way that sighted people do.
This is a beautiful essay by Helen Keller on Sight, and hearing..
http://www.assistech.com/three-days-to-see.htm
Perhaps it might provide insight into acknowledgement regarding a ‘Higher Power’ as well?

whatsthatsound
Member

Come now, KT. Surely the universality of the concept of gods indicates that our ancestors SAW and FELT something. The only question is what exactly that SOMETHING was. Did they merely FEEL fear and SEE lightning and volcanoes and call that “god”?
Plausible, I suppose, but still, the universality of religion causes one to wonder if perhaps there was something more, wouldn’t you agree?

jkkFL
Guest

wts. We are on the same exact page!
IMO, the Harmony of the Universe, Nature, whatever- is far too precise, and intertwined to have just ‘run into each other.’

KillgoreTrout
Member

Sure wts. But who has actually SEEN a deity? No one that I ever met in my 58 years.
See my comment above, from Joseph Campbell.

KillgoreTrout
Member

The mind is an abstract thing. How could one see it, in the literal sense.
And there is the Cartesian, “I think, therefor I am.”
Have you ever seen a deity? I mean, literally.

jkkFL
Guest

@KT- you haven’t seen your mind either..
does it exist?

KillgoreTrout
Member

You lost me bito.

KillgoreTrout
Member

bito, what is mu.

bito
Member

KT, “Remove the question, it has no bearing.” (actually it’s near untranslatable from Chinese). It matters not whether I agree or disagree with the statement. It is not an immutable law, is it?
Does a blind man see the moon?

KillgoreTrout
Member

bito, who said he offered a universal answer? And who said Campbell’s word was “gospel?” I merely offered a quote that makes a lot of sense to me.
Do you disagree with what Campbell said, and if so, how?

bito
Member

KT, mu.

bito
Member

KT, and if I never read Campbell or found him full of it or think he has made a supposition from a closed mind, does that offer an universal answer?

bito
Member

Caru, Is it dishonest to accept one does not know? When the question it self becomes a self fulfilling tautology of itself?

KillgoreTrout
Member

bito, it is simply a matter of having an open mind. Nobody questioned Kalima’s faith. Certainly not me.
I personally have never seen a deity, and that was my point in my comment before I quoted Campbell. He isn’t saying these natural forces DON’T exist. He is simply saying that we “anthropomorphize them.” Do you understand that?

Kalima
Admin

To your last paragraph Caru, I’ve done most of my questioning of my beliefs a long time time ago, and no longer feel the need. It might be hard to understand, but yes, I do have peace of mind in my beliefs.

I wasn’t criticizing KT, I was just trying to ask if another person who writes about myths is infallible and how would you know that?

Sorry, when I said “questioning” in the last sentence of my last comment, I was referring to myself and not anyone else.

I don’t have much time, it’s early morning here.

KillgoreTrout
Member

Kalima, maybe you better read that quote again. I think you you completely misunderstood it.
Who is questioning anything? And your beliefs are opinion, as well.
Joseph Campbell has devoted his life to the study of Mythology. He was a professor of Mythology. All religion stems from Mythology.
I really don’t understand your attitude here.

Kalima
Admin

Yet you believe and quote the words of another man who writes about mythology as if they were gospel or he were infallible.

Maybe it’s because I have never been influenced to any great degree by what someone either for or against religion has written in a book, because that is just another’s opinion and I’m skeptical as to their motives either way. Don’t you find that people who are just unsure will search until they find just the right words that will give them assurance that they are right?

We can’t see God, but those of us who do believe can feel him in ways that would be impossible to describe or put simply into words, so how can others say that what exists in our hearts, in everything we do, doesn’t exist simply because we can’t see it?

I believe for those of us who have found peace of mind in our lives through whatever we choose to believe or not believe, would be foolish to keep questioning it, what good does that do?