כי לא מחשבותי מחשבותיכם

כִּי לֹא מַחְשְׁבוֹתַי מַחְשְׁבוֹתֵיכֶם, וְלֹא דַרְכֵיכֶם דְּרָכָי

Monday, November 14, 2011

Another Great Article About Atheism

At the risk of the trolls again accusing me of being an atheist (which I am not and which I wouldn't consider an insult anyway), let me be clear: I am still not sure if I believe in a deity or not. I just know that I don't believe in organized religion and that if I would believe in a God, it would have to be more like Einstein's or Spinoza's God.

Still, even though I am not an atheist, atheism is often purposefully misrepresented by religious zealots. This article from the American Atheists website puts the record straight. An excerpt (emphasis mine):

Speaking of the original meaning, the word atheism comes from the Greek atheos, which means “without god.” The original meaning of the word, based on its Greek origins, mentions nothing about “disbelief” or “denial.” A short and single-word definition would be “godless.”

The fact that the dictionary definitions use the phrase “there is no God” betrays the theistic influence in defining the word “atheism.” If dictionaries did not contain such influence, then the definition would read, “A belief that there are no gods.” The use of god in singular form, with a capital G, is indicative of Christian influence.

In addition, using words like “doctrine” and “denial” betray the negativity seen of atheists by theistic writers. Atheism does not have a doctrine at all and I certainly do not “deny” that gods exist. Denial is the “refusal to believe.” Atheism does not “know there is a god but refuse to believe in him (or her, for that matter).” That is as silly as saying that you know Big Foot exists but you refuse to believe in him. If the evidence of gods was insurmountable and provable, and atheists still refused to believe, then that would be an act of denial. This is similar to how Scully refused to believe in aliens and UFO encounters even though Mulder had insurmountable evidence of their existence. Scully denied the existence of aliens and UFO’s even though the evidence was overwhelming. She was a horrible example of a skeptic!

Atheism is not a belief system. Atheism is not a religion. Atheism may be part of an individual’s religious beliefs, but atheism, in and of itself, is not a belief or religion. Some religions do not have a concept of god(s). One out of three religions worldwide is atheistic in nature, meaning that they worship no gods: Taoism, Buddhism, Spiritualism, New Age, and others (Macmillan Information New Encyclopedia: World Religions, 1998).

Atheism is a lack of belief in gods, from the original Greek meaning of “without gods.” That is it. There is nothing more to it. If someone wrote a book titled “Atheism Defined,” it would only be one sentence long.
Is atheism a religion or a belief system? Let us look at the different definitions of religion and see if atheism belongs in any of them (using the American Heritage Dictionary, Fourth Edition, 2006).
1. Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe. A personal or institutionalized system grounded in such belief and worship.
No atheism resides in that definition. Atheists do not believe in a supernatural power or powers.
2. Beliefs, values, and practices based on the teachings of a spiritual leader.
Atheism does not have a spiritual leader and atheism does not have any rites or rituals (practices) around such a spiritual leader. Atheism requires no initiation, no baptism, there is no Atheist Bible (Koran, Vedas, etc) to read, no rituals that atheists must go through to join an Atheist Church (temple, mosque, synagogue, sect, etc), and no central beliefs that all atheists must adhere to in order to be “true atheists.”


As I mentioned above, there are religions that are atheistic in nature, and they may fit the second definition. Atheism is not the religion. The religion just happens to be godless. Atheism is not the central tenet of their belief system, nor is it the foundational rock of their belief system.

The only common thread that ties all atheists together is a lack of belief in gods and supernatural beings. Every atheist is as unique as a fingerprint when it comes to his or her individual philosophy, convictions, and ideals.

23 comments:

  1. UK: you enjoy baiting trolls, don't you ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  2. re: "I am still not sure if I believe in a deity or not. I just know that I don't believe in organized religion"

    I'm the opposite. I tend to be very skeptical of the existence of a deity (bordering on absolute atheism, although I suppose I'm technically an agnostic because I allow for the possibility that God may exist).

    But I'm pretty sure organized religion exists, I have no doubts about that. And I'm all for it being organized. You gotta have some rules!

    ReplyDelete
  3. "atheism is a lack of belief in gods"

    Wrong, because no atheist can meaningfully define the word "god". Anything more powerful than humans? So would that include space aliens? Anything supernatural? The fact that the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate defies the known laws of nature, as do particles which travel faster than the speed of light? Anything with free will?

    Atheism is in fact the religion which teaches that the Biblical God does not exist and evolution created us. The founder is Charles Darwin. The holy scripture is the Origin of Species. The consumption of analgesics such as alcohol and opiates are the equivalent of prayer, providing solace.

    ReplyDelete
  4. The nice thing about the word "philosopher" is that anyone, even a complete idiot, can apply it to himself.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I guess insults are the last defense of fools.

    And incidentally, I realize that there were atheists before Darwin, however they were a small eccentric fringe. Until 1859, all scientists were what we would today call old earth creationists and intelligent design advocates.

    ReplyDelete
  6. atheists do no say: the existence of god(s) has been disproved.
    they say: the existence of god(s) is as yet unproven.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I guess insults are the last defense of fools.

    And the first defense of wise men.

    You are correct, though: the word "God", being undefinable, is unintelligible. As Jefferson said, "ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions."

    You've given us nothing of substance to engage with; the notion that evolution is a religion, Darwin a prophet and Origin is scripture is beyond the unintelligible and into the terrain of the insane.

    If you want more than mockery, offer something more than nonsense and craziness.

    ReplyDelete
  8. atheists do no[t] say: the existence of god(s) has been disproved.

    It's a little more subtle. "God" is used equivocally, in myriad different (and often mutually incompatible) senses. There are senses of "God", such as the existence of the being named "Yahweh" in the Judeo-Christian bible, that are indeed disproved by experience. There are others, such as the postmodernist conception of God as the "ground of all being" that are unintelligible; it is actually nonsense to day they are "as yet unproven"; if we cannot discuss the concept, the notion of proving or disproving the concept is facially incoherent.

    Theologians, apologists, philosophers and other con artists have explored every possible shade and nuance of meaning and non-meaning in their millennial attempts to retain their parasitical moral, political, and economic privilege. It's not atheists' fault; theologians and philosophers have so muddied the meaning of "God" (and don't get me started on the rest of philosophy) that rational discussion is nearly impossible. This obfuscation seems by design: what cannot be discussed cannot be criticized; what cannot be criticized can be more easily defended on the basis of traditionalism and historicism.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Interesting that for all my "insanity" no one can answer my questions. Is believing that we are soulless zombies descended from worms the ultimate in rationalism.

    Religion is the opium of the people. Marx

    Opium and alcohol are the religion of atheists. JP

    Evolution is simply the atheist god, the key difference being that unlike other gods, it has no intelligence and therefore can demand nothing. How convenient.

    ReplyDelete
  10. >Atheism is not a belief system. Atheism is not a religion.

    I think you are taking the "atheism is a religion" to literally. I don't believe they mean it that way.

    ReplyDelete
  11. If the word "god" I meaningless then "atheism" is meaningless.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Fascinating how an obsessive personality repeats the same erroneous phrases over and over without metadata to support delusional statements.

    No one ever said we are descended from worms. That's outright false and indicates a decidedly poor knowledge of biology and taxonomy.

    Darwin was not an atheist. The Origin of Species is not a bible to anyone. Darwin was an agnostic.

    Many atheists lead perfectly normal lives and have no interest in drugs , alcohol or pornography. To declare otherwise, once again without verifiable metastudies, indicates a desperate need for attention, to be perceived as an authority figure One can't help but wonder how tragically low the self esteem of such an individual might be.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Have you tried googling "origin of vertebrates"? We are vertebrates you know.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I'm well aware of the path of evolution. Your statement is, as usual, simplistic and inaccurate. The supposition that the spine is descended from the notochord does not mean we are "descended from worms" Even if that were an accurate statement, it is a pathway that is hundreds of millions of years in the making. If you are comforted by the belief that your primal ancestor was made of dirt, that's your choice. That would indicate you are ultimately descended from compost. Although I am not an atheist I am well acquainted with some very nice and decent people who've made that choice. They have never been fired from a job for stalking another person and disclosing the personal information of said victim's relatives on the web. They have never been expelled from school for advocating mass murder.

    ReplyDelete
  15. We are descended from flatworms according to evolution.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/03/990322062150.htm

    If Darwin believed in anything he seemed to believe in Satan not God.

    "What a book a Devil’s chaplain might write on the clumsy, wasteful, blundering low & horridly cruel works of nature!"

    http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/entry-1924

    I have only been able to find one well documented case of an atheist who was honest, sober and had a stable family life, and he regretted being an atheist.

    http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/2008/01/chandra-good-atheist.html

    Which makes sense, because why bother being an atheist if you're going to a decent person anyway?

    ReplyDelete
  16. And by the way I'm not cowardly hiding behind Internet anonymity because I'm ashamed of revealing my identity.

    ReplyDelete
  17. OK, so let me try to follow this 'logic': Since there is no proper definition for god, atheism is meaningless. Then why do you call atheism a religion instead of dismissing it as unusable terminology? Instead, you change its definition into including only the biblical god. What about a god in the Koran? What about the Sikh god? Any gods of current polytheistic religions? Your definition is even more useless.

    In any case, your definition of 'the atheist religion' is even more of a joke.

    As to anonymity: It's very simple. Non-religious people are generally tolerant to religious people, as long as they don't bother them. So religious people don't need to protect their identity. The other way around is, unfortunately, not the case.

    ReplyDelete
  18. "Since there is no proper definition for god, atheism is meaningless"

    Your definition is. That's why it's wrong.

    "What about the Sikh god?"

    They believe in the Biblical God.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mul_Mantra#The_text_of_the_Mul_Mantar

    By "Biblical God" I mean an eternal, all knowing, all powerful creator of the universe. This concept originated in the Torah.

    "Non-religious people are generally tolerant to religious people,"

    Really? News to me.

    http://bocesjustice.blogspot.com/

    Anonymous bloggers are cowards.

    http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/2009/08/why-i-dont-respect-anonymous-bloggers.html

    ReplyDelete
  19. I don't find your definition of biblical god convincing at all and your redefining the biblical god a cop-out. They don't believe in ANY god, regardless how you define it.

    Just by repeating I am a coward makes your argument louder but doesn't make your argument any more convincing. In short: since we were indoctrinated to be frum Jews and got stuck in our lives the way it is now, because of the abuse of so many frum Jews around me, amongst other things, I am forced to stay anonymous.

    And, of course, to protect myself from stalkers like you who like to harass people in real life. Point in case: Tova. Need I say more?

    ReplyDelete
  20. "regardless how you define it."

    If they can't define it then the word "atheism" is just gobbledegook.

    The "atheism isn't a religion" claim is a very weak attempt to make themselves sound unique and superior. Nice try.

    "got stuck in our lives the way it is now"

    Just leave. I bet you'll be surprised how little anyone will care.

    "Point in case: Tova."

    She publishes articles on the Internet denigrating my religion and allows people to comment on those articles. I made some critical comments. I'm not sorry. That was her choice to open herself to criticism. If it bothers her, she can just disable comments.  

    ReplyDelete
  21. If they can't define it then the word "atheism" is just gobbledegook.

    Can you define your God in a way that others will agree? I think atheists pretty darn well know that they don't accept any god in their lives and all understand what it's about.

    "Just leave". Easier said than done. And leave behind my wife, kids and family, being a cast out? I can tell you plenty of horror stories of people who went through it. I am not ready for that kind of abuse. I think I will eventually be able to lead a marginally Jewish life as secular as people, keeping a few things I find meaningful. Like mesorati, as a middle way. Who knows.

    Tova: You forget you actually made phone calls?! How convenient to forget you stalked her.

    ReplyDelete
  22. "Can you define your God in a way that others will agree?"

    Jewish beliefs are pretty well defined.

    http://www.ou.org/torah/rambam.htm

    "I think atheists pretty darn well know that they don't accept any god in their lives and all understand what it's about."

    So it's a secret society, they can't tell me what they believe but they know.

    Atheists don't want to delve into their beliefs because all of sudden that would level the playing field and open them up to criticism and ridicule. Well, I'm leveling it anyway.

    "And leave behind my wife, kids and family, being a cast out?"

    You think your the first person in history to get divorced? You'll be surprised how little anyone will care.

    "Tova: You forget you actually made phone calls?"

    I made one phone call to her mother who didn't want to speak to me. In Tova-land anyone who disagrees with her is guilty of some kind of "harassment". She's a very sick woman - angry, depressed, living for free with her poor orthodox mother while raging against Judaism. Probably alcoholic, suicidal, possibly sexually abused by her deadbeat homeless ex-orthodox father who is well known as a nut-case in their neighborhood. 

    ReplyDelete
  23. 1) The argument of the definition of atheism by JP is specious. Atheism as a concept is the obverse of theism. To argue that atheism must have the same exact construct as theism misses the essential point: atheism is not theism.
    2) Ironic point: an historic use of the insulting use of atheist was aimed at the growing sect of "the Way" (i.e. Christianity) in ancient Rome. They were atheists because they believe in only one God!

    ReplyDelete