Defending Atheism by Square Circle
There are those who are religious; those who believe in one or more gods. While not all religious people worship any gods, and not everyone who believes in a god or few is religious, religion and theism (the belief in one or more gods) are often paired. I am neither religious nor am I a theist. I am an atheist.
So, what is it that atheists believe? Do they believe that this life is all there is? Some do; some don't. Do they believe in souls, ghosts, psychic powers, or anything supernatural? Some do; some don't. Atheists believe God doesn't exist--right? Some do; some don't. The only thing that atheists have in common is that they lack a belief in gods. Whether or not they deny such gods is up to the individual atheist--it is in no way a requirement.
You might be asking yourself, "Isn't that the agnostic position, to neither confirm nor deny the existence of god?" No. An agnostic is someone who claims that god's nature is unknowable--that we can't know whether or not any gods exist. Agnostic theists are around today, so to say an agnostic is someone who is neither a theist nor an atheist is wrong--in fact, an agnostic must be one or the other (the agnostic either believes in god or doesn't). If you're still confused, we can look at the etymology of the word "atheist." Let's compare it to the word "amoral." Colloquially speaking, a "moral" action is a good action, and an "immoral" action is an evil action. An amoral action, however, has no relation to either good or evil. It is a non-moral action. For example, helping someone in a time of need is good; it is "moral." Raping a four-year-old child is evil; it is "immoral." (For the sake of argument, let's not get into the "why's," that's a matter for another discussion.) However, going to the bathroom is neither good nor evil, as it has absolutely nothing to do with "morality." I.e., it is "a-moral," or non-moral. In the same line of thought, a-theism isn't theism; it is simply non-theism.
As an atheist, I don't believe in any God; I don't believe in Yahweh, Zeus, Odin, Brahma, Shiva, Osiris, Ra, Yog Shoggoth, or any other deity. Such a belief is illogical: a waste of time and energy.
Theism is a collective psychological defense mechanism for coping with what cannot be readily explained, coping with death, or to absolve oneself of responsible thought. When man first observed lightning, he came to the conclusion that some angry deity must have caused the event. Science has come to explain the causes and effects of weather. Ages ago, man concluded that he was the creation of some larger, more powerful, more invisible version of himself; as if from clay (or dirt!). Science has shown us that evolution slowly shaped man from ape-like ancestors. With the advances of science, there are fewer and fewer gaps in our knowledge in which religion may blame "God" or some other deity for. Just because science hasn't yet produced an explanation for something, doesn't mean one doesn't exist. Yet a theist will attempt to "fill the holes" with his own explanation: "magic" (God).
I don't believe in magic or the supernatural--therefore, I don't believe in "God." I ask you, where is the evidence? What is the justification for belief? How do I know this is more than silly whimsical fantasy? All of it has a ficticious quality--"magic" is the stuff for storybooks. When theists attempt to explain the beginning of the universe or life, they are ultimately claiming, "Magic did it!" a reasoning I find difficult (or impossible) to agree with.
While not employed by all Christians (certainly not the more scholarly), consider the all-too-common Christian quote, "If you want proof of God, tell Him to reveal Himself to you," or, "To know if God exists you must completely surrender yourself to Him and believe in Him with all your heart." This is a cop-out, an appeal to people to let go of all logic and reason. What they're basically saying is that if you really want to know if "God" exists, you already have to believe in such a thing. It's obvious that if you let yourself simply believe in "God" that you'll believe it exists! This is known as circular reasoning, or begging the question--and it is a logical fallacy.
If ever comes the day when I believe in some god or another, be it Athena, Cthulu, Yggdrsl, Jehovah, Isis, Anubis, or some other deity, I refuse to have my reason for belief be some petty and illogical reason as fear, convenience, or comfort. For instance, I won't believe in the Christian God simply because a majority of my friends and family do--I'll come to my own conclusion about his existence, thank you. You do not require a god or religion for hope and order in your life, or to give your life meaning. You can find your own motivation for living and dong good, other than just "trying to get into Heaven." I'll find my own meaning in life and live by that, rather than living by the doctrine of a god that may or may not exist.
Thomas Jefferson once said, "Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because, if there be one, he must more approve the homage of reason than that of blind-folded fear." A common reason to believe in God is fear of punishment--Hell--if we don't. Why would I get condemned by God for using the brain He gave me to question His existence? Believing in God simply out of fear of punishment is cowardly, and dishonest-- making it sinful, and hyocritical. If ever comes the day that I shall be judged before the throne of some all-powerful deity, I shall do so with my chin erect.
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