Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Negativity of Atheism?

As I have repeatedly emphasized, I am an atheist.

I lack belief in the supernatural, in deities, in religion. I reject it.

Therefore, many people have accused me and other atheists of being overly negative. I'd like to analyze this sentiment.

On one hand, of course atheism is negative. That's the basic definition of atheism -- we don't believe in certain things. So sure, technically one would be correct to say that atheism is essentially negative.

However, I'd like to look at atheism another way.

Sometimes, not accepting a belief is ultimately positive. For example, I could say that Jainism is often positive because it doesn't condone violence. I also believe that my parents taught me a positive lesson by teaching me not to steal.

So what does atheism offer?

Atheism doesn't teach us that we are fundamentally bad people. Atheism doesn't teach us that believing something without evidence is virtuous. Atheism doesn't teach us that we are incapable of being rational moral agents - that we are incapable of behaving decently without the supernatural intervention of a deity. Atheism doesn't teach us that some humans will be condemned to eternal torture for offenses committed over a limited amount of time -- that morality by fiat is unacceptable except when condoned by divine scripture. Atheism doesn't teach us that some basic human instincts are reprehensible or should be avoided (humor, sexual urges, etc.). Atheism doesn't blame us for our own genetic predispositions and then condemn us for "sin" -- by saying that we have "free will" even though many critical elements of our lives have been pre-determined by genetics or circumstance.

Yes, atheism is negative. And I sincerely appreciate atheism for what it isn't.

Finally, I hope you all have a very Merry [Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Solstice, Humanlight, Eid, New Year]!


Alex 'Tufty' Ashman said...

A good entry. It's a shame so many people propogate that rubbish about atheists not believing anything and having no morals. Until all those myths are properly countered, there'll still be plenty of atheophobia (fear/hatred of atheists) about, which is quite upsetting for those atheists who haven't done anything to deserve it.

Player Piano said...

Thanks for commenting!

I agree with you - I'm also tired of people saying that atheists don't believe anything.

Often I want to say something such as "look, the only thing I don't believe that you do believe in is the supernatural - everything else we both share a belief in: country, family, morality, etc. Atheists can be just as patriotic, loving, and moral as anyone else. The only difference is lack of a belief in the supernatural - really it's a small philosophical difference in the grand scheme of things.

Andrew said...

Atheism also does not teach us that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights or anything goofy and old time like that.

Andrew said...

And sure you can be as patriotic and moral as anyone else.

Just don't pretend that has anything to do with atheism.

Player Piano said...


There you go again.

Atheism does not teach us that there are any "chosen people". For the Old Testament, all societies are not equal. The Jewish people take clear priority. Sure, the Gentiles get into the act in the New Testament, thankfully, but it's long overdue.

You don't have to believe in a deity to believe that all humans have certain basic rights.

Many diverse and numerous moral traditions other than Christianity have deducted moral truths such as "treat others as you would want to be treated". Empathy-based morality is arguably better equipped to establish rights than divine-fiat-based morality.

Supposedly, your god gave me rights, so I have them? Then could I also not lose those rights, therefore not making them inalienable? Is your god not omniscient?

Of course atheists can be just as patriotic and moral as anyone else. Even you don't dispute that.

No, I'm not saying that I am patriotic or moral because I am an atheist. That's ridiculous. The only thing that atheism is is the disbelief in gods. My senses of patriotism and morality do not require the existence of a deity to have meaning in my life.