I changed a lot in this post when I proofed it. It’s kinda late… I’ll read it once now and then read it again tomorrow morning.
I think that most of the issues here have to do, unfortunately, with semantics, and pre-conceived notions. I found this graphic on the internet a while back and I think it gives a good visual cue for this discussion.
Image from Science Blogs
Like most things the best place to be on the graph is somewhere in the middle… more on that later.
My defense of Atheism starts with an argument I found somewhere on the internet and can’t find a link to the original cartoon.
What differentiates atheism from theism is no so much a rational decision but an emotional comfort. The cartoon went something like:
A theist argues to an atheist, “Well you must need as much faith as I do to not believe in god, therefore you are just a religious as the people you scorn for being religious.”
To which the (well-versed) atheist responds, “Yes, I will accept your notion, so long as you admit you have multiple faiths as well.”
The devout theist responds, “That is blasphemous, my god is jealous and I know this, there is one true God that I believe in.”
“Very well,” responds the atheist, “but you must realize that for each religion you don’t believe in, is by your logical it’s own religion. You say me not believing in your religion is equivalent to being religious, then you not believing in any other religion must also be a religion in an of itself.”
The point of this cartoon is not so much the rationale of believing in god, but rather the emotional response of people who defend their particular religion by actively not believing in other religions.
Atheism, on the other hand, has less of a sense of “ownership” or “belonging to” a particular ‘brand‘ like religion. The reason for this is that atheism is not written in scripture and has no clear definition. The only thing atheist have to go on is the human experience, which is why some of the key tenets of atheism, at least with respect to not believing in god and heaven as physical places, (I think) should be included in a successful active philosophy. Which leads me to a question raised in the first atheism post.
“Why not call it God?”
At this point it is necessary to define (these very big) words very carefully. These types of conversations can quickly diverge into two main categories: philosophical and literal.
In the most cases, the word religion is tied to a specific religion rather than a general philosophy or world view, which is what my makes the previous post’s on Atheism misleading. Although I know my co-blogger is not advocating for any particular religion or belief system for that matter, the way he loosely uses the words can, in my opinion, be misleading. Consider one of his quotes:
“But is not God’s fault that others misinterpret God’s consequence.”
On first read, (to me) this quote sounds like it is straight out of the mouth of the likes of Ray Comfort and other fundamentalists. Now, at least for me (mostly due to many preconceived notions), this sentence (again, at first read) makes me cringe. However, if the sentence was changed to, “But is not existence’s fault that others misinterpret existence’s consequence(s),” much more (linguistic) freedom is given to the question, because it is not directly tied to scripture and history. If I had to guess, what my co-blogger meant using the word God is probably very similar to what I chose to call existence.
The word “god” (ughhh I mean “God”) is inexorably tied to history, religion, and perception, which why I contend that it is not a good word to use to describe something that needs much more explanation. Although, any discussion that outright omits all previous conception of god and the universe is obviously incomplete, I think defining a new term is essential for coming up with a better, more concise, more pure definition of what we are trying to define.
On a much different note, I also think that it is a bad word to use in terms of basic psychology. In a certain sense, an active philosophy, must appeal to emotions. In terms of promoting active philosophies; we want change, we want something new, we want something with that ‘new-god-smell.’ We are tired of the same old rhetoric and the same old dried up notion of old-white-bearded men ruling over us, we are tired of the same book telling us how to live our lives, we are tired of praying and we’re ready to work, we want something new and improved, something to get our curiosity flowing and our creativity recharged, we need something to inspire us to break down barriers, we need a new conviction, a new start, and new step forward.
I have much more to say on this… but I think it worth whetting the mental appetite with.