Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Atheism, defined

I got this from Friendly Atheist, who got it from August Berkshire, president of Minnesota Atheists.

It’s called “The Four Cs of Atheism.”

Like many of you reading this, I describe myself as a flaming liberal. Yet in one area I am a conservative. I am an atheist.

Yes, atheism is a conservative position. We make no leaps of faith. We accept statements only so far as there is reason and/or evidence to back them up. Anything else is speculation.

Atheism is also consistent. We apply our skepticism equally to all supernatural claims. We do not say, “All prophets, saviors, or gods are false – except ours.” We make no exceptions or special pleadings, which makes us consistent.

Another benefit of atheism is that it is contradiction-free. We don’t have to try to reconcile an all-loving, all-seeing, all-powerful god with the existence of evil. We don’t have to define love exactly the opposite of the way we normally define it in order to make it applicable to our god. We don’t have to claim a poor supernatural designer is intelligent.

An atheist also possesses clarity in his or her thinking processes. An atheist has the courage to follow the trail of reason and evidence wherever it may lead. If there should some day be a compelling reason or piece of evidence for a god, then we would acknowledge it and change our views. This is also known as intellectual honesty.

One of the arguments of Pascal’s Wager is that a person loses nothing by believing in a god. I beg to differ. Accepting Pascal’s Wager means saying that we are willing to abandon reason and evidence as our standards of living, and instead make a leap of faith to… where?

It’s true that by converting (or deconverting) from theism to atheism a person can lose his or her cosmic specialness and meaning in life and any hope of an afterlife. But you can’t lose what you never really had.

The reality of atheism far outweighs the dream of religion. There is an excitement and beauty to perceiving the world as it really is, and not as a wishful thought.


amyecotarian said...

Good grief, I need to get on to my regular life and stop lurking on your blog!

Anyway, a question: Would an agnostic be a more conservative position than an atheist?

Michelle said...

Perhaps, in that agnostics make no claim at all, whether for or against the existence of god. Good point.

Anonymous said...

(your version of) Atheism may be consistent, but there are hardly any logical systems that are consistent or contradiction free. In fact, Gödel showed that any logical system capable of expressing (statements about) elementary arithmetic can not be consistent and contains contradictions. Therefore, your logical system is more primitive than elementary arithmetic.

Another interesting argument from mathematics is transcendental numbers. It can be shown that there are more of them than all of the other numbers combined, and yet they are exceedingly difficult to find. An analogy to the spiritual would be that the world of the spirit is more than anything you have ever known, but will be exceedingly difficult for you to find.