Just What, Exactly, Is Atheism? November 21, 2012 08:58 33 Comments
Ever since I brought the question of Atheism Plus to this blog, my being, my very core, has been shattered, and every granule remaining from the devastating destruction is poised, waiting on the brink to turn on its fellow granules and wage all-out total war in an effort to prove what is and what is not. In other, less grandiose, and, let's face it, false words, the response to the blog, and in turn the responses I was spurned to write, lit a spark of inquiry in my sunken chest - what exactly "comes with" atheism? What's bundled in with the purchase of every Deity Denial? When I order a Godless #7, do I get fries or slaw?
As many of the anti-Atheism+ folks were adamant to point out, "atheism" itself isn't really a movement. It's not really anything. I'm sure I'm paraphrasing dozens of more witty and urbane folk, but atheism is a system of belief the same way not-boxing is a sport of kings, being quiet is a genre of music, and "off" is a television channel.
Or like this sparkly thing is a vampire. (Source: allthingsd.com)
In its simplest, purest form, the kind of crystal clear Walter White would cook up, atheism means the disbelief in a "god," a supernatural force that is creator and governor over human souls. I don't even like using the word "disbelief" there; to me its more of an acknowledgement of a fact of the world. Facts don't require belief or disbelief. I know I'm preaching to the choir, but I could believe all I want that I don't have a wart on my hand, but that's not going to change the fact that I either need to see a dermatologist or buy some gloves.
But even the bit about what TYPE of god is unnecessary, if we want to simplify further. To the atheist, there are NO gods, not deist types who created the infinite Multiverse, fine-tuned the cosmic dials of physics and chemistry, and then floated away to dick around on Xbox. No theist types who take a serious vested interest in EVERY SINGLE prayer, no matter how contradictory they may be to EVERY OTHER prayer. No multi-teired gods that are all part of the same god, nothing like that.
Nope, not even Thor. (Source: 1upcollectibles.com)
That's it. End of definition. This is what the anti-plus folks were arguing - lumping together a bunch of ideals and goals and shared viewpoints on top of a word that means something very simple is unnecessary. It was the same reaction when the whole hullabaloo about "brights" came up. A person could be an atheist and have VERY different opinions on a multitude of issues. Hell, and atheist could strongly believe in ghosts, cryptozoological creatures, and The Secret - they'd still be an atheist if none of those things fell under the billowy veil of "god."
I also feel it is unnecessary to define what type of god "atheism" rejects, but for the opposite reason. For me, atheism comes with a whole boatload more. Right of the bat, being an atheist also comes with a denial of most, if not all, of the world of the "supernatural." To me, there's just as much evidence for a god as there is for a ghost. These people fall into the realm of the "Spiritual But Not Religious," a group that deserves its own space on this blog for the tarring-and-feathering I feel it oh so justly deserves.
To me, atheism comes with an overwhelming appreciation for science, especially the life sciences of evolutionary biology that better explain our place on this odd little rock better than any tattered old parchment. For most it seems like a thorough understanding of evolution by natural selection LEADS to the denial of the supernatural and of creator gods. I admit - I was handed The God Delusion before The Selfish Gene and The Greatest Show on Earth, but it was actually reading an interview with Douglas Adams, published posthumously in the tragically brilliant collection The Salmon of Doubt that began my lust for knowledge on how we fit in here and why that's a better offering than the teachings of religion. I've yet to meet an atheist that is also a denier of evolution, or a proponent of the young-Earth theory. I'm not saying they don't exist, but to me, they just seem to go hand-in-hand.
Read This! But only after reading everything else the man wrote, and only then if you're prepared to cry like a little girl. (Source: neoseeker.com)
When you deny the existence of a creator god, and, depending on the god or gods, the existence of an afterlife, the crushing, almost paralyzingly so, realization that THIS IS IT comes with. Again, I'm not saying there aren't atheists that may simultaneously believe in zero gods while also believing in the eternal soul or reincarnation or alternate planes of existence or some such bullwonky, but I've yet to encounter him or her. This too seems to be an atheism package deal. No gods = this life is it. The odds stacked against one unique little swimmer uniting with the warm orb and resulting in the exact genetic code for ME is so astronomically huge that one is simply bowled over by how appreciative I, and all of us, should be every single day that we even made it, when the slightest alteration in the plan could have resulted in anyone else. Or no one at all! Of course, it's hard to live constantly in awe and appreciation of existence itself - think about it too long and you have to sit down with a glass of water.
Or, preferably, something stronger. (Source: realfoodtraveler.com)
I find the same thing happens if I try to think about what would existence be like if we had evolved to work in the world of atoms, and we could see that every object is mostly empty space. Or what if we had evolved to perceive time several times slower than we do today. OR what if another species elsewhere on the planet, separate and secluded, had developed consciousness at the same rate as humans!
Do NOT think about this stuff while operating heavy machinery. (Source: i.com)
From this consciousness-raising view of the universe and our tiny place in it, a whole slew of other stuff seems to follow. Atheists seem to be in favor of a woman's right to choose. They seem to be tolerant of the decision to let go of life in situations in which assisted suicide would be preferable to prolonged suffering. I could go on, but it seems so much simpler to connect atheism with humanism, because it looks a whole lot like the two go hand in hand. But there's an aspect of humanism that I personally feel goes right along with the entire atheism caboodle but somehow missed the kit for a whole lot of non-believing folk I've met, and that's personal responsibility - specifically, the kind of personal responsibility that would be labelled as "Libertarianism" in the political sphere. Why? Well, that's a question for next time, isn't it? I've got to go drink whiskey and contemplate our place in the universe. I expect to find all of zero answers.