Thursday, February 9, 2012

Why "Atheism" Means Nothing

In my last post, I mentioned (however briefly) that atheism isn't really that big of a deal. Here, I will discuss exactly why that is.

Atheism says exactly nothing about one's personality, despite all the stereotypes and rhetoric from all sides. It's simply a lack of belief. Some are insistent (stupidly so) that it's a positive belief that there is no god/s. Even if that's true, it's a single, mostly unimportant belief. There are very few single beliefs that dictate overall morality, and our consciences are generally more shaped by society than anything else. Hell, one can still technically be christian without believing in any god. Furthermore, while atheists are more educated, generally speaking, atheism is not a guarantee of intelligence OR education, nor is it a guarantee of skepticism, as skeptics like Kenneth Miller, Sam Harris (who's into eastern spirituality) and Neil Degrassse Tyson (who is non-religious but claims some belief in a higher power) show. It's not even a sign of non-religion, as there are religions without any gods, like Buddhism, Scientology and Taoism. All atheism is is a guarantee of not believing in any god/s.

This is quite well illustrated by the current feud between theamazingatheist and several others including PZ Meyers. TJ is anti-feminist (even though his own views peg him as a feminist, he pretends that all feminists are feminazi man-hating stereotypes that exist in small numbers, if at all) and has been on this trip for months. Recently, in an almost-admitted attempt at shock humour, on a reddit thread he mocked a rape victim, though he later apologized. In a lot of ways, it's a continuation of elevatorgate (I'm linking the best post on it that I know of) which split the atheist community last year. While I do have strong feelings about this thing, that's not the main thrust of this post. The fact is, everyone involved in both those debates, and the general debates about sexism in the atheist community, or politics, philosophy, or any other thing has to rely on its own merits with atheists. There is no holy book that we must obey to tell us anyone is wrong or right here. I can't say "1 Darwin 3:10 says that thou shall not joke about rape." The only thing I can say is that rape is wrong and joking about it is deliberately hurtful. I can point out facts, construct moral arguments, but in the end people who disagree are not compelled to agree because it's the atheist thing to do.

Now, we do need some organized atheism. Until religious conservatives quit trying to force their beliefs on the rest of us, we need atheists and anti-theists to band together to fight for secular causes. However, we shouldn't make this one thing we have in common mean more than it really does. Deep down, atheism means about as much as not believing in UFOs.

Let's keep it that way.

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