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What atheism is

April 13, 2014

Mike Dobbins follows in the long line of religious believers who want to turn atheism into something like religious belief. In particular, he wants to push atheists into some positive faith that there can be no gods, rather than a lack of belief from a lack of evidence:

If atheists applied their own definition of atheism to their divine creation the Flying Spaghetti Monster, an atheist would proudly state they merely have an ‘absence of belief in‘ the FSM. Just as with God, they would neither concede to having a disbelief or belief. I have no qualms confessing that not only do I have a ‘lack of belief in’ the Flying Spaghetti Monster, I also positively believe the FSM God does not exist. Are atheists willing to concede a theist has more conviction that the Flying Spaghetti Monster doesn’t exist than an atheist does?

My answer is, yes. People who believe religiously typically have more conviction than people thinking rationally. That is the nature of faith.

Among the gods that men have imagined, the Flying Spaghetti Monster is not that outrageous. If there were a god with a sense of humor, he might choose to reveal aspects of himself to someone in a fashion that would lead that prophet to think they are creating a parody. That’s as plausible a story of revelation as most. Unlike Dobbins, I can entertain that possibility, recognize I can’t disprove it, and take all that at face value without having to huff and puff about some “positive belief” it is false.

My positive belief is that there is no more reason to hold it than any other such myth. And similarly, that Yahweh and Allah and Jesus (the divine, not the historic) are believed on basis no better than the Flying Spaghetti Monster’s. I can assert that as a positive belief based on how believers themselves explain their own faith. That’s not a direct argument against any god. It is an argument against religious belief. And it’s where believers like Dobbins go wrong in thinking about atheists. Atheists don’t have to tackle what gods there might be. We only have to take on belief in them. If Dobbins wants to know what the atheist believes, rather than what he doesn’t, it is this: That we have never heard a sensible defense of religious belief. Many believers these days know they can’t provide that, and so they’re not going to try. Instead, they want to re-imagine atheism as something like religion, rather than a rejection of religion. And it’s pretty easy to argue against atheism, once you make it look like religion!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 14, 2014 8:30 am

    I think one of the things religious believers have the hardest time accepting is that whether there is or isn’t a God or gods doesn’t matter much to non-religious people. As a non-religious person, I don’t spend time on this, I simply do other things. It doesn’t interest me, just like cruises don’t interest me. And whether I’m wrong about not being religious doesn’t matter to me either. Probably because religious people spend a lot of time on practicing their religion, they may think the non-religious spend a lot of time thinking they are practicing “non-religion”, but it is not like that at all. I enjoy life however I see fit and don’t spend time thinking of religion unless I read something on the news/blogs or a religious person insist on talking to me a about it. And then I’d politely cut them off, just like if they went on and on about how I should take a cruise 😉

  2. rturpin permalink*
    April 14, 2014 3:44 pm

    Laura, I agree that many who are religious can’t quite grasp how non-believers put no stock in the kinds of issues they take oh, oh so seriously. Life and the world are no less for the absence of angels and gods, prayers and sacrament, icons and ritual.

    But… It is full of religious people, especially here in the US, who interject their religion into everything from politics to football. So the rest of us end up paying quite a bit of attention to it. Doing otherwise would be like living in Hollywood and trying to ignore the entertainment industry.

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