I see some folk have been getting their knickers in a twist lately about what it means to be an atheist, so I thought I would share the knowledge I have gained on the subject since I started participating on this forum, in the hope that the twisted knickers will be unknotted and fit comfortably once again.
Let me start with a definition of atheism – Atheism is a disbelief in, or rejection of, the notion of God/gods. That’s it. Done and dusted.
Moving on to the subject of who is an atheist… Anyone who rejects the notion of God and/or gods. That means everyone. I have yet to meet someone who claims that Zeus is alive and well, ruling the universe. (Apologies to any Zeusians/Zeusites/Zeusists out there.) And even if one does not reject Zeus in particular, one might still reject Vishnu/God/Allah etc, so one is still an atheist with respect to some gods. For the purposes of discussions on this forum though, we do not generally refer to those who believe in a deity, whilst rejecting thousands of other deities, as atheists. This just confuses the issue – however, it should be noted that the atheists on this forum merely reject one more god than the religious folk do.
And just to confuse the issue a bit more, most of the atheists on this forum are actually agnostics – I only know of one person who has stated outright that he “100%” rejects the notion of God/gods. I am sure there are more “one hundred percenters” though. But dragging agnostics into this equation just muddies the waters, so I will stick to the term “atheist” for the purposes of this article. Besides which, I never was very good at "labels", and I have no desire to get bogged down in dictionary definition after dictionary definition.
Are atheists then Satanists? After all, they reject the notion of the God of Abraham, therefore they must be Satanists, right? Wrong – you were not paying attention. Atheists reject the notion of ALL gods/God – this includes Satan/Lucifer/Baal and whoever else you might care to throw in the mix.
Right, so what about babies? They do not believe in any gods/God, do they? No, they do not, or at least not until they are taught to believe in gods/God. Does this mean they are atheists? No, it does not – to be an atheist one must reject the notion of gods/Gods, and the only thing I have seen a baby reject is a feed – usually all over one’s shoulder. I am not permitted to say that babies are irreligious – I got well and truly chastised last time I said that – so I will try for “babies are non-religious”, and hope I am not soundly rebuked for using that term.
OK, so God/gods are out – but they must believe in something, surely? It must be Science! No – wrong again. For starters, one does not “believe” in Science. One understands it, (or in my case, tries to understand it), accepts it – but never does one BELIEVE in Science. In any event, neither Science, nor any of the great Scientists, are or were gods. Nothing whatsoever to do with atheism. It is simply Science. Some atheists are into Science, some are not. Then again, some religious folk are into Science too, so it cannot be the exclusive property of the atheists, can it now?
Now that we have (hopefully) established that your run-of-the-mill atheists actually have no beliefs in deities or Holy Books, this must obviously mean that they have absolutely no morals or ethics. This must be so, as they have nothing on which to base their moral code, right? Um, no, wrong again. Whilst a lot of people fondly believe that moral codes came to us from the Bible, this is simply not true. After all, from a purely logical perspective, people were around long before the Bible was written. They must have found some way to get along, surely, or they would have wiped each other out, not so? There have always been “social norms”, and there always will be. (And let us be brutally honest here – we should be pleased that the Bible is not the moral code by which we all have to live. Personally, I have no desire to have someone smited/smitten/smote because they ate shellfish. And to be perfectly truthful, I have no desire to stone anyone who committed adultery – that just is not my style.)
I think it is fair to say that one gets some dishonest/unethical people who are dishonest/unethical regardless of their personal beliefs. In other words, just because a person is religious does not automatically imply that that person is honest. And conversely, just because a person is an atheist, this does not imply that that person is dishonest. We all have our own moral codes, regardless of personal faith or lack thereof.
Then there is that thorny issue of pseudonyms, which some would have us believe are the sole preserve of the atheists among us. Well, perhaps there are more atheists than religious folk using pseudonyms – I don’t know, I haven’t counted. I have certainly seen some very descriptive pseudonyms used by atheists, and some equally angelic ones used by the religious. Some of us use our own names – perhaps we are just to idle to come up with something witty and clever, or perhaps we just have no reason to avoid using our real names. (I am way too lazy to try to think of something stirring and meaningful, and in any event, I have no reason whatsoever to avoid using my own name – I do not have to worry about losing my job, or fret about causing distress to my family, my friends etc). Whatever the case, I do not think one can assume that every pseudonym implies nefarious and dishonest dealings. The bottom line on this is that if the use of a pseudonym implies dishonesty, then ALL who use pseudonyms are, by implication, dishonest – and this would include a fair number of the Christians on the forum as well. So to those who are busy casting aspersions on the use of pseudonyms, stop and think about all those within your own “camp” who use pseudonyms – you have just tarred them with the same brush.
So, in my opinion, there you have it – atheism in a nutshell. Nothing scary, nothing demonic, no Lucifer or Beelzebub lurking on their shoulders, whispering sweet-nothings into atheist ears. Just normal, ordinary people who reject the notion of gods/God.
Personally, I think they are wrong – I believe in God, I believe that He is with me, but that is just my belief.
We all have our own paths to walk – to each his own.
Peanut Butter (and Jam), Pap and Braaivleis, but most of all,
Peace and blessings.