Monday, December 18, 2006

The most frustrating thing about being an atheist...

...is constantly having to correct other people's misconceptions about atheism. Contrary to popular belief, most of us aren't warring against God, most of us aren't atheists because we want to have perverted sex with underage animals and not feel guilty about it afterwards, most of us don't care about "In God We Trust" on money or "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, most of us aren't trying to undermine traditional family values, and most of us really don't give a damn what your beliefs are.

There are almost as many definitions of atheism as there are atheists, but all atheists share one thing in common: we simply don't believe in God.

Atheists can be roughly divided into two groups1, strong (or positive), and weak (or negative). A weak atheist doesn't believe in God because he (or she) isn't convinced that God exists. A strong atheist doesn't believe in God because he (or she) is convinced that God does not exist. For most theists, the difference may be subtle to non-existent, but trust me, the difference is real, substantial, and can lead to arguments among atheists.

I personally fall into the weak camp. I cannot say with any certainty that I know that God doesn't exist; if God is everything He's advertised to be, there's probably no test that could conclusively demonstrate His existence one way or the other. What I can say with certainty is that I have not yet had any personal experience that convinces me that God is real. My mind can be changed, but it has to be a pretty unambiguous demonstration of godly power; seeing Jesus' face in a tortilla isn't going to do it for me. Similarly, testimony of the faithful alone isn't going to be much use either. No, it'd have to be God appearing as a 100-foot tall colossus striking down all the lawyers2 with lightning bolts to get my attention. Absent such evidence, my default position is going to be that I don't believe.

I try to respect other people's beliefs for what they are (there are exceptions, but they're fairly rare). All I ask is that people respect my non-belief for what it is, rather than the caricature that they think it is.

1. I sometimes refer to a third group called the Almond Nutbars, who feel that religion in any form is a pernicious institution and should be abolished forthwith. They go beyond militant.

2. Except Doug. Doug's cool.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Mark said...

what you call a "soft atheists" sounds like what I've heard called a "skeptic." basic logic establishes that you can't prove a negative ("God does not exist" being a classic example); that which we cannot perceive may still be there, just not where or when we're looking.
personally, I find the case for Jesus quite compelling. consider that all the disciples died martyrs deaths (so far as we know) except John, who suffered some pretty cruel torture. they were offered a chance to survive if they would deny Jesus' resurrection. and none did.
if Jesus' resurrection was a fraud, the disciples had to be in on the scam. this is a group that including a tax collector, a zealot, and a man who barely stood up to questioning from a Hebrew servant girl. and NONE of them broke?
in terms of evidence we're likely to since, I find that compelling, to say the least.

12:02 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

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12:02 AM  

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