Yes, Another Post About Atheism
“Atheism” is a term that ought not exist. It is the state which we are all born into, and would stay in if it weren’t for the constant insistence by our cultures and religions that god does in fact exist. A “the world’s most famous Atheist” Professor Richard Dawkins says in his bestselling book The God Delusion, “A child is not a Christian child, not a Muslim child, but a child of Christian parents or a child of Muslim parents.” The same could be said of a Hindu child, or a Buddhist child; A child is brought into the world not with a belief in a particular god or gods, but with an absence of belief. There is one simple reason why this is true, and that comes down to the definition of the word “atheist”, as boring and as hackneyed as that is. This is a point that atheists tirelessly have to reiterate again and again, as it seems to be very poorly understood.
According to the the dictionary, “atheism” is defined as:
2. disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings.
There is no act of the denial of a god, nor an act of rebellion against a god. No anger, no hatred, no resentment. There simply is no “belief in” any god or gods. It’s the answer to the question of “Do you believe in god or gods?” The answer to which is “No.” It’s as simple as that. Many claim that atheists are “angry at God”, or were “hurt by God”, and while it’s true many people may be angry or hurt, it certainly is not blamed upon a being or deity for which we see no plausible proof or evidence. I can assure you there are also many Christians, Muslims and Hindus who are angry and hurt in the world, but they are the only ones who could blame this on their god or gods, or in some cases, on Satan. For an atheist, this is simply not part of the equation. “A” means “without”, and “theist” means “belief in god or gods”; “Without belief in god or gods.”
For fear of treading over the worn old “atheism vs agnosticism” debate for too long, I will only mention agnosticism in passing. Agnosticism is the answer to a different question. The question is “Can you know for 100% certain that God does or doesn’t exist?” The answer should be, for every right-minded reasonable person “No, I cannot prove or disprove the existence of God”. This means that every person, when asked this question should answer as an agnostic. In this case “a” means without, and “gnostic” means “knowledge” ; “Without knowledge of the conclusive proof of the existence of a god or gods”. It’s an unanswerable and unknowable question, but this is not the same question as the one atheism answers. So many theists see this as a “checkmate” moment against atheists, as we see time and time again in the case of the Richard Dawkins “7 point scale of belief”. (1 = absolute certainty of the existence of a god, and 7 being absolutely certain there is no god.) 
So according to the idea that all children are born atheist (not believing in god or gods), all children are likewise born agnostic (without knowledge of god or gods). In a complete vacuum, without any outside input to the belief in a deity or the divine, it could be imagined that all people could in theory remain atheist agnostics all their lives. But this almost never happens; religion pervades all aspect of life to some degree be it historical, social, cultural, political or financial.
As I say, the term “atheism” ought not exist, but Sam Harris in his 2005 essay “An Atheist Manifesto” puts it much more succinctly than I ever could.
So often atheists align their godlessness with many issues that are caused or affected by religion and religious belief. This is simply not a hard and fast rule. Atheists, as in any walk of life, are people with many and varying viewpoints about the world. Walk into a room full of atheists and you will see different personalities, different passions, different aims, and different favourite causes. One thing that many atheists seem to hold in common is a distaste for anything they see as unjust, to varying degrees. I see this as an extension of the search for the answers to the big questions of life. The arrival at an answer of “there is no god” often comes from asking and denying what has been taught over a lifetime, and can be an incredibly painful process. Once the floodgates of questioning are opened and the answers point toward religion as the cause, so many other questions come to the fore. So it makes sense that so many atheists are active in not only trying to debunk the myths of religion, but human rights issues, animal rights issues, environmentalism, feminism, disability rights, reproductive rights etc.. The list goes on. In fact it may be safe to say that those who identify themselves as atheists also have an intolerance for misinformation, lies, superstitions and exaggerations.
It is quite apparent that atheism is becoming increasingly popular. We have established atheism as a valid stance in the world, not just a rebellious reaction or a trend; we have been heard by the churches and governments, the larger community knows we exist, and many people are throwing off the shackles and label of religion and faith away daily, in favour of a rationalist and naturalistic view of the universe. In this sense, atheism as a label has been very successful, with the aid of social media and the Internet. Our words spread far and wide, and here in Australia, we even have a female openly atheist prime minister. (Many would conjecture that whether or not Prime Minister Gillard believes in god is irrelevant since she panders to the vocal Christian minority with such abandon. But my point stands, not many other places on earth would have this.) The Australian media is quite open about stories of faith and godlessness, and I’d say, at least here, we have achieved the goal of bringing atheism up out of the dungeon, and making it seen as a position that good and real people hold, and is by-and-large not a position held only baby-eating rapist murderers who worship Satan. There is still a long way to go in other countries; in the USA I doubt we’ll see a female atheist prime minister any time soon, but the voices of the American atheist is being heard loud and clear by their churches and government.
The “shock and awe” campaign of atheism has left its mark, shocking the religious with our numbers, and leaving them in awe of our reasonableness and knowledge. They know we’re here and we aren’t going away. They also know we are gaining support, and the numbers of atheists, freethinkers and rationalists continue to swell. Atheist books are available in almost all bookshops, and in many the philosophy’s and religion sections are increasing in size and filling quickly with books by the irreligious. Atheist characters in television shows are increasing, and movies with atheist characters are also on the rise. I see this trend continuing, and it is only a matter of time before the truly religious are in the minority, and the rest of society either adopts “apatheist” (apathetic atheism) views, or openly atheist philosophical stances. This may be a pipe dream, but I have reasons for thinking this.
The enemy of faith is critical thinking and availability of good information. We are in an age where information is available in many digital forms, and almost anywhere too. We are discovering more about the human brain and body than at any time in history. We are seeing deeper into our universe, and deeper into cells than previously, and the rate at which we are learning is increasing also. According to the Flynn Effect, the average IQ on earth has had to be adjusted to accommodate an increase in intellect among all humans, and the average IQ (100) would have been considered genius only a century ago (approximately 130 by comparison). The exact causes for the increase is not clear, but it seems to me that with a rise in intelligence and in increase in availability of information, faith is eventually doomed.
It would be nice if we could move forward with some of the things that concern us about the world, rather than continually referring to whether a god exists when talking about our world and universe. In fact, better than nice, it would be great if we could stop referring to god at all. It is necessary to continue to hold on strong to our assertions that there is no god, or at at least that the claims of theists and their ideals hold no water, and that all signs point towards a new rationalist ideas. Given the sway that religious influence has on our lives in a destructive way, it is imperative that we continue to criticise the encroachment of religions into our secular lives.
Religion, however, is a powerful beast, and has many allies all over the world. In fact, once could say it is the single most powerful force in the world in terms of numbers, with 84% of people claiming belief in one kind of deity or another. Given the nature of religion, which is to attach itself to a person’s very identity, it is no wonder that the challenges atheists face are tough. And for some, the eventual arrival at an atheistic stance is one of the hardest decisions or realisations a person can come to face.
If we move forward as a global society, as I hope we do, we could in fact see major religions wane in power to a point that they become irrelevant to politics and culture. But in the meantime, we should not rest on our laurels, assuming that this growth in rational thinking will just happen naturally. It takes work, time and patience to make changes in the world. And it is by no means an easy task. In fact, it is draining to have to continually drone on and on about the question of god. I hope, before I eventually run out of steam and tire of talking about it, that I can make a difference to a person’s life on this philosophical playing field, and that they in turn can do the same for others. Remember, this is not about belief, this is about how belief and doctrines affect our cultural and political lives. With that as a focus, I hope to see a day when I no longer have to talk about these issues, and I can concentrate on the more important societal problems we face, such as violence against innocents, abuse against children, the environment and the ways we treat one another.