Time to Shed the Atheist Tag

No. I have not found new evidence or scheme of thought to change my belief about existence of god. But I have decided to let the atheist tag stay away from me. Some of the reasons are similar to my other post sometime back.

The more I read the sermons of the atheists and their explanations, lectures, logic, or whatever it may be called, the more it looks like shaping into a religion. Like some call non-believers kafirs, atheists have started calling believers faith-heads. I must make myself clear – my not being able to believe in the existence of god is a rational choice. To make myself believe despite my understanding of things would be intellectual dishonesty.

My objection to religion is more primary. I have no difficulty in rejecting any and every religion, for it entails giving up freedom. No one, and I mean no one, shall have the right to preach values to me, let alone prescribe a lifestyle. What formalities should I go through in order to accept a woman as wife, what should I do before I name my child – come on, I would rather not live than let you tell me how to. It is insulting that religion is associated with the absolute concept of good that people have termed god. If we accept god as some sort of an absolute good (and not a person or a particular form, just an idea maybe), then religion is farthest concept in human civilization to be associated with god.

Most of the proclaimed atheists have silently started forming a sort of religion. A religion with no god, no place of worship, no prayers. These are not the essentials of religion. The essential characteristic is the attempt to replace individual freedom and intellectual reasoning with that of a group. I have read many (and I mean a lot) atheists (the proclaimed ones) explaining to the ‘young’ as to how they should figure out the non-existence of god. As to what atheism really means, what are its beliefs, etc. etc. Well, I am no part of those beliefs, even if everything you say may match what I think. Reason being, I did not give you the right to spell out beliefs on my behalf. If I said I was a Christan, there are n number of things that get associated with me without the decency of even informing me about it, let alone asking. Same stands with any other religion. Atheism is becoming one of them. Agnosticism is next. Therefore, I shed the tag. I do not believe in god in the name of intellectual honesty. Please don’t coin intellectualism as the next religion. Lay off!

16 responses to “Time to Shed the Atheist Tag

  1. I hate to trot this out for you again, but atheism is “religious” only in the same sense as not collecting stamps is a hobby. I quite see your concern about atheists becoming too one-note in what they say, but there really are only so many ways you can frame a negative. “There is no god,” is breathtaking in its simplicity. Since this is all people are saying, really, it is hard, on this point to search for “diversity.” How many ways of NOT believing are there? Belief is directional, changeable, and thus diverse by definition. Non-belief is not.

  2. All you’ve shown here is that some atheists are forming organizations dedicated to discussing atheism and persuading people to be skeptical of religion. Just because you choose not to belong to one of those organizations or are uninterested in attempting to persuade others to agree with you doesn’t mean you’re no longer an atheist. If you start believing in God, you will cease to be an atheist. If you do not believe that God exists, you are an atheist. That’s all there is to it.

  3. There are “atheists” and there are “Atheists”… Try making the distinction like, “I’m a small “a” atheist, not one of those shrill, dogmatic big “A” atheists…”

  4. People can be dogmatic about ideologies of which atheism is a part (classical Marxism, for example), but with atheism itself there’s nothing to be dogmatic about. It’s like being dogmatic about the non-belief in Santa Claus – it doesn’t make sense. I think it would be better for someone like bookcrazy to simply say “I’m an atheist, but I’m not into any atheist activism” or “I’m an atheist, but I don’t make a big deal about it” rather than try to change the definition of atheism.

    Ifn, why is it that when atheists try to persuade others to adopt their ideas you call them shrill and dogmatic? Do you call Christians who try to persuade others to be Christian shrill and dogmatic? I’m not even an atheist and I find them to be one of the least shrill and dogmatic groups out there.

  5. All I was trying to say was Bookcrazy seems to object to a particular way of expressing atheism. I have no problem at all with atheists presenting the rationale for why they think the way they do. The exchange of ideas is a good thing. Similarly people of faith can present the rationale for why they think and believe the way they do (dogma is an integral part of this). Method and tone are as various as people. I find the tone of many Christians shrill… The problem is there are loads of straw men being built and torched (on all sides).

    For instance, Dawkins and Nietzsche. Like Dawkins, Nietzsche hated the Christian faith (among other things) but unlike Dawkins he took it seriously… So, from a standpoint of faith, I will spend my time engaging Nietzsche rather than Dawkins.

    Eric, I think I agree with you in that I wonder how can you build a positive assertion on what is essentially a negation? Atheists, however, don’t merely deny the existence of God. They make other positve assertions to replace faith (will to power, science, communism, or whatever).

  6. ” Atheists, however, don’t merely deny the existence of God. They make other positve assertions to replace faith (will to power, science, communism, or whatever).”

    Not necessarily – it’s a mistake to assume all atheists are as engaged as people like Dawkins or that they always make positive assertions to replace faith. I’ve met plenty of atheists who have no particular ideology whatsoever. If you’re a person of faith, your faith might be so essential to your psychological well-being that you assume that an atheist must have something to fill that faith-shaped hole that they’re assumed to have, but there’s no reason to make that assumption. Not everyone has to be driven by some ideology or faith. Some people just live their lives day to day and make what they will of it.

    “Like Dawkins, Nietzsche hated the Christian faith (among other things) but unlike Dawkins he took it seriously… So, from a standpoint of faith, I will spend my time engaging Nietzsche rather than Dawkins.”

    What do you mean by “taking it seriously?” If you mean acknowledging its power as a social force, Dawkins takes Christianity very seriously. If “taking it seriously” means regarding it as a worthwhile or legitimate worldview, then he doesn’t. While I think Dawkins can be haughty, self-righteous, and off-putting, he has no obligation to take Christianity seriously in the latter sense any more than a Christian has of taking Scientology or Communism seriously in that sense. Dawkins’s intellectual responsibility to Christianity is not to see it as worthwhile or legitimate, but to accurately describe it and carefully hew his criticisms of it to an accurate description. So long as he does that, his criticisms are worth engagment and response to the degree that they cause more people to disagree with you.

  7. It would be a mistake to assume all atheists are idealogical, true, but pyschological well-being (regardless of faith) depends in part on having a reason to drag yourself out of bed each morning and do whatever it is you have to do. Maybe these reasons are simple or unconscious, but they are there. These reasons have to be positive. If you don’t have them you stop living, or your life is a drag.

  8. That reason to drag yourself out of bed in the morning could be as simple as the fact that you enjoy life, have good relationships with your family and friends, enjoy your work, and have things you want to see and do. A reason to drag oneself out of bed in the morning need not have anything to do with religious faith or driving ideology at all. If it is for you, great, but that’s no reason to assume that this is the case for everyone else.

  9. I agree. I didn’t assume nor say the reason had to be religious or ideological. It could be simple things. My point is that atheism isn’t just “a denial of God”. Usually, and often without necessarily knowing it as ideological, atheists fall into the ‘logical positivism’ camp. They don’t see “evidence” for God so they don’t “believe in” God, but their life isn’t defined by this negation but other positive assertions (like enjoying friendship, or feeling fulfilled at work).

  10. Sorry, I thought you were suggesting something you weren’t. However, atheism itself is different from the things with which it’s combined. The fact that atheism often accompanies logical positivism (who’s still into that these days? Didn’t that die out in the 40s or something?) doesn’t mean that atheism IS logical positivism. All that can really be said is that atheism as a statistical matter is more likely to accompany some ideologies than others.

  11. Atheism can be a feature of opposing philosophies, like logical positivism, nihilism, some kinds of existentialism, marxism… I’m not sure logical positivism is that dead (Dawkins for instance churns out best selling logical positivism) but that’s not really the point. I think you’re initial point was that it’s silly to reject the term atheist when it’s simply a “no” answer to the “god” question. You can’t believe in god (or gods) and be an atheist. You can be ideological and polemical about it if you want, but that has nothing to do with how you answer the question on the existence of god. I agree.

  12. Pingback: The Atheist Response « Book Crazy

  13. Pingback: An Atheist’s Blasphemy « Book Crazy

  14. Many are scared of calling themselves an atheist because of the social implications of what that means. Atheists carry a certain stigma in society that non-believers wish to avoid, as your post here proves. To claim that atheism is becoming a religion is absurd. The meaning of atheism is lack of belief – and if you don’t believe, then guess what? You’re an atheist. That’s not a religion. It’s the same as these right wing nut-jobs who claim that “global warming is a religion.” The terms of what makes up a religion have certainly changed, haven’t they!?

    If you don’t want to call yourself an atheist, then don’t. But you must be true as to why it is you’re avoiding the term. And as long as people are afraid to call themselves atheists, nothing is going to change in how atheists are seen. The word “atheist” will remain a dirty word and people will continue to say such statements as “oh, well i’m not a religious person, but I do believe there might be more out there” rather than saying “I’m an agnostic.”

    This is one case where I believe that labels actually help rather than hurt, as they assist to bring the community together of those who don’t believe in god and therefore cut down on some of the social stereotypes and perhaps even small persecutions that atheists endure.


  15. Magikent,

    I appreciate what you are saying, but I disagree with your connotation that it is fear that prevents me from accepting the ‘atheist’ tag. I have re-read my post after your comment and I do not think I have hinted fear as a reason even ‘between the lines’.

    I believe in this post I have objected to the self-proclaimed priests of atheism more than anything else. If ‘faith-head’ becomes common to the dictionary of non-believers, hatred becomes natural consequence of a very logical conclusion of non-belief, I decide to be on guard against these priests. I do not know if atheists are being persecuted, for in my geographical location I am openly a non-believer without any social stigma. If you would read my other post, i.e. “An Atheist Response” you might agree that my skepticism is not unfounded.

    Thanks for your perspective, though.

  16. My two cents:

    A lot of the confusion here comes simply from the fact that atheism is an idea expressed in an abrupt, deafening statement: There is no god. Hakima notes this in the first reply.

    This statement, like most eastern philosophy, is loaded with implications and intellectual continuances – it expands itself and leads out in many directions.

    With such an inarticulate assertion like this, what seems to be self-evident and obvious continuations to one interpreter may be ‘obviously’ false to another, with both interpreters seeing what they see for very supportable reasons.

    Faith, for those who live and die by it, is a sort of appreciation of the ‘obvious’ experiences of the faithful – namely, there is a god, he works in mysterious ways, and so forth. The desire to share one’s experience is a powerful motivating force.

    In both instances, those who take their respective paths (faithfulness vs. atheism) take them in natural ways that seem instinctual. We are led along by a force just outside our consciousness. It’s this parallel that I think Bookcrazy might be fed up with – fellow Atheists putting forth their self-evident conclusions about the implications of atheism, and how this practice (that so many fellow atheists undertake) has a curious and comparable form and function to that of a minister or priest.

    ~ Driz

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