Saturday, 31 March 2007

Atheism explained

As there has been so much persistent misunderstanding of atheism by theists posting here and on other blogs, I am copying below an excellent statement made on the Guardian's CiF thread "The anti-God Squad" by 'TheRationalist' on 31 March:

The argument that atheism is a religion that creates its own meaning, albeit a nihilistic one, seems to me to be a common misunderstanding that needs attention.

Atheism is a tiny subset of a much larger mindframe called amongst other things 'reason'. Atheism is, if you like, the branch of reason that responds to theology. That is all it does and it claims to do nothing more.

Let us imagine for a moment that clairvoyantism or astrology were proving a serious obstacle to human progress in the same way as religion, even at its best, is currently doing and must by definition do. There would be a branch of reason that opposed these irrational superstitions in just the same way. It would attack clairvoyantism but it would not be somehow another version of it. Atheism, like anti-clairvoyantism, makes no claims to anything beyond its opposition to superstitious notions. Atheism has no independent existence of religion and provides no alternative philosophies of life.

Reason, however, most certainly does. When, as atheism, it finishes its dialogue with faith it goes back to deciding how the being in its possession should best live a full, rewarding, meaningful and purposeful life.

To summarise: atheism posits nothing about the world - it makes no attempt to create alternative realities, or 'religions'.

If you live your life as a thoughtful, reasonable being, you will find much to do and great pleasure to be derived from art, science, literature, music and the discovery of new things. That, for the reasonable person, is what life is. Atheism, I repeat, for it needs constant iteration, exists only because of theology. When God disappears, so will atheism. Atheism makes no claims and has no desire at all to supplant religion. That is not to say that it does not wish to destroy it, as it wishes to destroy all forms of religious idiocy and oppression.

It is reason that envisages a world in which human beings think for themselves, control, as far as possible , their own destinies, behave socially and are happy. Most of all, perhaps, reason wishes to subvert the evils of authoritarianism, the control through mythologies of the many by the few. Reason wishes to free the minds of children from prejudice, fear and supersition so that they may become independent and thoughtful adults who will work together for the betterment of humanity. Reason wishes for open and honest debate between free and strong-minded people about how best we should live our lives as social animals.

Do not look to atheism for another version of religion or an alternative philosophical manifesto. I stress again that it is purely reactive and will die with religion. It is the governance of reason which we strive for. This, if you dislike the vision, should be the object of your dislike and your attack.


Jose said...

"When God disappears, so will atheism."

If God disappears, Anticant, we all would be atheists. Why you think the God concept has a duration in time?

It makes me think you're fighting to attain this disparition.

anticant said...

Jose, I thought I made it clear that I did not write this post - it was someone on CiF. I would rephrase that remark as meaning "if there were not theists, there would not be atheists - we would all be non-theists". What I fight is irrationalism, and the wicked behaviour induced by human belief in a "supernatural" being for whose existence there is no convincing evidence except pig-headed assertion. Perhaps you will address your critical faculties to the poster's concluding point: "It is the governance of reason which we strive for. This, if you dislike the vision, should be the object of your dislike and your attack."

Jose said...

Apologies, Anticant. I took it for granted that you endorsed that statement entirely.

My fault.

Richard W. Symonds said...

I have lost faith in your Reason, AC.

anticant said...

That must be because you are ultimately anti-rational, Richard.

Richard W. Symonds said...

Being "rational" and "logical" have their place for me, but not the highest place.

That does not make me "anti-rational".

Emmett said...

AS An experiment, one may try substituting /extra-rational/ for 'irrational' and 'anti-rational'.

HENCE, Above, 'Mr Symonds' should then be able to conclude in a more positive vein:

'[That for me reason and logic do]...not [hold] the highest place...make[s] me "extra-rational".'

Wook, francophone epistemologue & phoney pest

Richard W. Symonds said...

Even "trans-rational" :)

Emmett said...

BUT, As I agree with Antimacassar, there are a preposterous number of the outright-hysterical in all quarters, all 'INFRA-rational' as Hell....

THESE (the bin Laden-Dawkins bully-type of 'orthodogue' & Boring Old Cunt) people curdle the moral atmosphere in all of the religions & other sciences. And, as to 'hard' science, they are the die-hard fans of the technology quackery.

THESE Are the scientistic souls who devour with illiterate glee all the Virago & who infest everywhere now that /our/ science-form is in its late-historical end-phase. Anything for a /hard/ anything at all, you see....

AND, The cretinous are ever-ready to beller for more-nefarious forms of Zyklon-B -- plus, faster computer-processors. All to be used to stem 'global warming' & against SOME semites or other, eh?

Wook, Grouch & Sorehead

anticant said...

RICHARD - Maybe you are post-rational?

EMMETT - I'm puzzled by your animus against Dawkins. I find his enthusiasm for Darwinism rather OTT - Darwin was an impressive and scrupulous researcher, but his conclusions, so far as I can understand them, strike me as tautological so-whattery. ["The fittest are best adapted to survive" isn't exactly earth-shatteringly surprising.] But Dawkins on the evils of literalist religion is spot-on. Have you READ "The God Delusion"? It's much better tempered, and more cogently argued, than his critics would admit.