Tuesday, February 9, 2010

What is Atheism?

I believe that atheism is widely misunderstood. Religious belief is so deeply ingrained within so many people that it seems as natural as breathing and its absence seems impossible. As a result, there exists and idea that atheism is a religion of no god. Atheists are thus seen as heretics, as those who believe in a perversion of true faith. We worship nothingness, we believe in emptiness as our supreme lord.

The error being made here is assuming that religion still maintains pride of place within our minds, and here I shall set the record straight. While I am an atheist, atheism is not the core of my mind, nor the central belief system from which I derive all my values. How could it be? The eternal throne room is empty, always has been empty, and I simply don't bother myself with making supplication there. Atheism is simply one aspect of a rational mindset. When I say that I am an atheist, I say that I claim no special knowledge about the universe that surrounds us. I know nothing that cannot be proved. It is important to say here that the previous sentence is not a creed that I adopted when I joined the atheist team. To know something only means that you understand a logical proof of its existence. If my keys have gone missing, I can't say that I know they are under the fridge without someone actually looking under the fridge. Anything else is just a guess. To make an axiom of it, knowledge untested is no knowledge at all. As a rational person, I apply that axiom to science (has life ever existed on Mars?), to politics (is there a demonstrable benefit to a same-sex marriage ban?), and to religion (does an afterlife exist?), and to all other areas of inquiry, as well as I can.

The term "atheist" only exists with such force because it is still so sharply contrasted with the tenacity of religious belief. If alchemists still existed and busied themselves with attempting to transmute elements in violation of the principles of chemistry, and if they held so much sway that all world leaders had to affiliate themselves with some alchemical camp or risk being cast down, then I would be called an "anti-alchemist" and that name would define me to those who tried to change lead into gold without inducing atomic fission. Fortunately, alchemy is now understood to be based on incorrect assumptions about the nature of matter, and I am not troubled by any need to defend my disbelief in it. I can simply point to any high school chemistry textbook and be done with the matter. Unfortunately, I cannot defend atheism so simply, for religion is still a major driving force for much human culture. So, I have started this blog to publish both my questions and my answers.

If you are reading this, I thank you for your curiosity. And while it may be rather self-important to do so, I ask that you refuse to accept anything I write simply because of my authorship. Doubt me. Tell me if I'm wrong. Let's find the truth together.