4.6.06

A question, seemingly, as old as belief (or lack thereof)

It's time for another standard atheist rant. I guess most atheists have ranted on this subject, be it on blogs, on forums, in chatrooms or, often, in real life conversations. What I'm saying is that it's been done before, but I'm pissed at the world right now (for reasons I won't go into) so, I'm going to rant.

Atheism is not a religion.

I'm gonna repeat that:

Atheism is not a religion.

Seriously, I'm getting pissed off with hearing theists trying to equate atheism with religion.

The first step in addressing this is to explain exactly what atheism is, then I can get into discussing exactly what atheism is not.

Atheism comes from the Greek word "atheos", meaning "without gods".

And that, more or less, is it.

An atheist is simply a person who lives his or her life without gods.

It seems counter-intuitive, but Buddhism is an atheistic religion. It's not such a contradiction in terms when you realise that Buddhism is a religion without gods.

Atheism, as a concept, is also a privative. This means that it is a concept that only exists in order to express the lack or absense of something.

A great example, for those who are having problems with the idea, is hot and cold. Cold is simply defined as "the absence of heat", nothing more. We, as warm creatures, define cold as the privative.

Now, the very first time that a human on this planet decided that there was a god (or gods), he (or she) immediately made everyone else on the planet an atheist by default.

What's interesting is that the example of hot and cold is especially apt, because the ground state of the universe is pretty damn cold. In the same way, the ground state of a human being is to be atheist. Only once we've been exposed to concept of gods - indoctrinated, educated, converted, call it what you will - does a human become a theist or, if they reject the concept, remain an atheist.

And it cannot be stressed too much that that's it. That's the lot. There is nothing else that can be definitively said to link atheists together. Atheists come from all spots on the political and social spectrum.

Atheists are not linked by age, race, gender, educational level, marital status, income, height, weight, hair colour or anything else you might name.

I've met atheists who vote Republican and atheists who vote Democrat. I've known atheists who believe religion is a blight on mankind which should be wiped out and atheists who don't care what anyone believes as long as they're left alone. I've met atheists who celebrate at Christmas and those who absolutely refuse to allow any mention of Christmas in their houses.

Even the charge that is most often brought - that atheists all accept evolutionary theory - is not true. Buddhists are, as previously noted, atheists, too. Not to mention that I've had a surreal conversation with one atheist who firmly believes that human life was introduced to this planet by aliens.

Anyway, that is what atheism is. Now on to what it is not, and why it is not.

Atheism is not a religion. I've already mentioned that religions can be atheistic, but atheism is not, itself, a religion.

Ask anyone to name ten things that defines a religion and none of those things will apply to atheism, even if you twist their definitions. Faith, belief, commandments, worship, churches, temples, synagogues, priests, scriptures, prayers, holidays, ceremonies, sermons, none of these has anything to do with atheism. None of these even has a parallel in atheism.

And just as the definition of atheism does not fit into religion, the definition of religion does not fit into atheism, no matter how you try to turn either of them.

Even if we take a more esoteric approach to defining religion, such as defining it as something like "a worldview based upon one's beliefs" (which is one definition I've heard) or "a philosophy of life" (ditto, but c'mon, that's just bullshit), atheism does not fit in. Atheism is a lack of belief. And, even though I reject that second definition, atheism is also the lack of anything that could be defined as a philosophy.

Now, I'm going to head the next part off before it's even been pointed out.

Yes, some atheists choose to define themselves as believing that gods are not real. Some even refer to this as "positive" (because it revolves around a positive statement of belief - "I believe" - rather than a negative - "I don't believe") or "strong" (because it is active rather than reactive) atheism. There are those, who wish to be obnoxious, who refer to this as "real" atheism, because it's a - they say - "real" statement of belief that gods do not exist.

And, of course, anyone who wishes to believe such is free to do so, but it is not this belief that makes one an atheist. Many debates have raged over whether the "strong" or "positive" atheism needs a new name - "antitheism", perhaps - but the belief is irrelevant. Atheism is the lack of gods, no more, no less.

Atheism is not a religion.

And that, gentle reader, is how I will leave this, for now.

7 comments:

The Logical Truth said...

Why the need to always explain yourself? Try going a week without mentioning anything to do about your "non-belief" or attacks against religion. I bet you can't. You should get angry everytime somementions god. It's not good for the soul. ;-)

The Logical Truth said...

That should be someone mentions, not somementions.

Doombreed said...

>>Why the need to always explain yourself?

Because this blog is supposed to be about my experiences as an English atheist living here in America.

Do try to keep up, old boy.

The Logical Truth said...

You are obsessed.

Old chap!

Doombreed said...

This from a person whose blog has a single entry which simply repeats most of the religious right's falsehoods about atheism?

I'm relaxed about my atheism. I don't get in anyone's face about it, but I also won't hide it simply because it annoys people like you.

This is my blog. I'll post what I want, when I want and how I want. You can read or not read as you choose. I don't care either way.

The Logical Truth said...

It's not the religious right and it's not falsehoods (see name).

Start listing the details about how you are going to kill off the leader of the U.S. and see if you can really "post what you want".... :-)

Doombreed said...

No, they're falsehoods.

And that's putting it nicely.