Friday, August 12, 2011

Atheism is NOT fundamentalism

atheist
1570s, from Fr. athéiste (16c.), from Gk. atheos "to deny the gods, godless," from a- "without" + theos "a god" ...


"Without a god" ... that's it. That's all that atheism means. But almost all theists, and a remarkable number of skeptics/agnostics get this wrong. They believe that atheism implies certainty that there is no god. Many people that I know that are actually atheists believe that atheism requires the same amount of belief and intractability as fundamentalist Christianity. So they call themselves "agnostic". Hell, I used to call myself an agnostic because I had the same exact misconception. I know these are just words, but words have some importance. People base their opinions on these words. And to me, agnostic, is a much more dangerous word, especially for those that call themselves inquisitive and curious:

agnostic
... a person who holds that the existence of the ultimate cause, as God, and the essential nature of things are unknown and unknowable ...


I don't hold anything as being "unknowable". Why would we even go on if we didn't believe that we could discover the nature of things eventually? Not knowing something is not scary to me but making the decision that something couldn't ever be known is.

The term skeptic doesn't bother me as much in that it is a more philosophical term. I get the line of thinking that posits that nothing, really, is absolutely "known". But that is in a much more abstract sense of the word.

Anyway, the whole reason why I was reminded of this whole subject was by a tweet by the great blogger, vjack, today that linked to one of his older posts:

Atheism Does Not Require Certainty

Check that post out, and his blog in general. Consistently good stuff.

And to my friends who are scared by me calling myself an atheist ... don't be. I don't believe there is a God because I'm not going to apply one way of thinking to one part of my life and another to the balance. I take nothing on faith in my daily life and why should I when it comes to spirituality? I don't "know" there is no God, but nothing that I have ever experienced or seen would lead me to believe otherwise. Christians "know" there is a God. Now, you tell me which side is fundamentalist?

Atheism is not a religion and as such does not require faith. All that it requires is a good healthy dose of skepticism and curiosity.

5 comments:

CyberKitten said...

It still surprises me (sometimes) just how many people don't 'get' it. It's not as if Atheism is all that difficult a concept!

wunelle said...

I think that believers' fear of atheism is the same fear, and intellectual method, that motivates them with their religious faith: one begins at the conclusion and works backward. Atheism is held as the fearful abyss because it denies what they've been told MUST be true, and so they espouse any argument which is thought to most effectively trash the intruder.

I went back and forth with atheism / agnosticism terminology for a while, until I realized (with Jeffy's help) that we could not function if we sat on the fence about everything for which we do not have iron-clad evidence. And indeed the arguments against gods seem about as well established as most anything else accepted as fact. We seem especially well justified for not sitting on the fence here.

Except for the Goddess Oogla: for HER the proof is incontrovertible! ;-)

dbackdad said...

CK -- We are always scared of what we don't understand. Well, most people are anyway. I'm sure the 3 of us are not.

Wunelle said, " ... indeed the arguments against gods seem about as well established as most anything else accepted as fact ... -- I guess the point I'm trying to make is the atheism doesn't require proof or certainty of the opposite. It is not saying that we absolutely know that there is no god. It is merely saying that we believe there is no god and until proven otherwise, that will continue to be our view. I don't need to "prove" there is no Santa Claus and I don't need to prove there is no god. As always, the burden of proof is with those making the assertions. As Carl Sagan said, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

There are certainly atheists ... I think they might be considered "strong" atheists or "positive" atheists ... that make the explicit assertion that there are no gods. I consider myself a "weak" or "negative" atheist which is what I think most agnostics actually are, but they don't know it. We all believe there are no gods but very few things outside of a mathematical proof are absolute and thus can not make an absolute assertion.

CyberKitten said...

dbackdad said: We are always scared of what we don't understand. Well, most people are anyway. I'm sure the 3 of us are not.

Indeed. I'm *interested* in what I don't understand.....

dbackdad said: We all believe there are no gods but very few things outside of a mathematical proof are absolute and thus can not make an absolute assertion.

Although it is difficult to prove a negative and there is *so* much we don't know about the universe we live in, there comes a point where you have to say that absence of evidence is indeed evidence of absence. That is the point I reached some time ago. I have yet to come across any new evidence or arguments that makes me question my position - quite the opposite actually.

Antimatter said...

I seem to recall Dawkins bringing this point about atheism/agnosticism in God Delusion and had similar conclusions - that technically atheism is a form of agnosticism and that most forms of agnosticism were, for all intents and purposes, effectively atheism.