The Atheist Response

This is my response to some very thought provoking discussion in my last post.
1. It is not true that non-belief is uniform and not diverse because it boils down to, “I do not believe in god”. In that sense even believers are the same, “I believe in god.” In the very same way as there are ‘n’ number of forms ascribed to the concept of god, so are there ‘n’ number of ways to arrive at the conclusion that god does not exist. And these make all the difference. Non-belief can be reckless and i-don’t-give-a-damn styled or it may be the result of a very intense self-questioning, analysis, logic, awareness, knowledge and consciousness. There must be other ways too. But non-belief is also diverse in the ways Dawkins points out in his first chapter.

2. My objection to ‘atheism’ was neither it’s beliefs nor monotonicity. My objection is primarily to it’s overenthusiastic proponents, who tend to dismiss individual choice with their logic and rationale. You may have certain tools of knowledge that allows you to conclude the way you do, which others may not have, or may not know how to use.The only positive action in such scenario is to spell out those tools and instructions to use. In my case, I can say my tool is experience, logic, my incessant need for freedom, and the senseless rituals and sermons of religious pundits. As for instructions to use, I would refer people to books that made me think, eg. The Myth of Sisyphus by Camus, Plato’s Republic, and many other. I may even suggest The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, but the man has already created a notoriety around his logic, and a beginner may find it very difficult to agree with him – not because his logic is misplaced but because his tenor is.

3. Persuading people to be sceptical of religion is not the same thing as persuading them not to believe in god. You may accept the Gita without any belief in its religious overtones. I believe, one cannot be persuaded to negate god. It comes through a though process which is absolutely individualistic in nature. As said earlier, you can only provide the tools.

4. I meant always to just simply say I am an atheist and that I don’t make a big deal about it. The problem arises when atheists are tagged with atheism, which is being defined in one way or the other by every other person as if it was a sect or institution that you subscribe to if you fit that description. I am comfortable being an atheist but I do not subscribe to any theism, with or without ‘a’. When people start putting up 101-things-that-atheists-believe-in kind of crap, that’s when I am scared and want to shed the tag. My beliefs are not for anyone else to decide and spell out. I always believed that the incessant need for freedom and the rational mind are two most important things that drives an theist. And such people are bound to be sceptical of the 101-things clan of atheism as much as any religion. I was wrong.

5. By LfN “…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… 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)…[F]or 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.” I agree. And I guess the Dawkins clan of atheism is starting to get attached to some kind of dogma, even if it is more anti someone else’s belief than for one’s own. God’s existence is a primary question but it must remain a personal choice. Religion calling dissent ‘blasphemy’ or atheism calling it ‘faith-headness’ is one and the same thing.

6. By Eric “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 ….[S]ome people just live their lives day to day and make what they will of it.” Agreed. Faith is not essential. This is the strongest argument against those who are not very religious but still believe in god. And I agree, its the most logical argument. Once you get that faith is not essential, you can see a lot of things blinded by faith. But, no amount of Eric’s or my shouting at roof-tops can make you see this. The only thing that I can think of that might help one to see it is to try and understand the logic or arguments of Camus and Sartre and a lot others, mostly tagged together as existentialists.

7. By Eric “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.” Agreed completely. Also agreed that some of his books , including The God Delusion, does mostly that. But when the man speaks to an audience, he does exactly the opposite. He stands there as if he was a priest and the auditorium was a church and atheism was a religion. That I object to absolutely. At any rate, if that’s atheism, I do not subscribe.

8. The next two responses turn completely to the outsider’s problem (as Colin Wilson puts it) – what warrants your dragging yourself off the bed in the morning. I agree with Eric again. The fact that life is not eternal is reason good enough for one to hate sleeping, let alone dragging away from bed. One requires no ‘positive reason’ to live. You have been thrown in this world full of choices, not to find a purpose but to make one.

9. The reason for not believing in god is neither always nor exclusively logical positivism, or in simple terms the lack of proof of god’s existence. That’s a given. The question of proof is as difficult as disproof. A priest would say god chooses to create some and then let them evolve, and lo! You have a religious explanation to evolution. I think the concept of god as professed by most was a political invention way back, for reasons best described by Plato. This concept lives and survives on the inherent fear of the unknown, of future. Man wants an explanation to absurd events and “God’s Will” is one that never fails them. When I see the concept behind the invention, I need no proof or disproof. I know. God does not exist.

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11 responses to “The Atheist Response

  1. booksandmusings

    I agree with you, in almost all respects. If one were to split the word A-theist, it would be apparent that it means non-theistic. In logic ‘not A’ is the entire Universe less A. Similarly, an a-theist should be the entire Universe (of people) less the persons who have faith (of any sort). Thus, these persons are not a group of people but elements that left out of a domain. Once this can be seen clearly, it will be known that one cannot place their faith or believe in Atheism.

  2. A few more comments, if I may. I’m numbering these to correspond to the numbers you gave to each point.

    1) In addition to the “I don’t give a damn” position and the “I’ve thought it out and have decided to reject it” position, you should probably add the “As a default rule, I don’t accept positive claims unless evidence or deduction has positively persuaded me to adopt them.” This doesn’t necessarily entail detailed analysis of the claim, but it also doesn’t entail carelessness.

    3) “I believe, one cannot be persuaded to negate god.” Why not? People can be persuaded that other things don’t exist.

    4) “When people start putting up 101-things-that-atheists-believe-in kind of crap, that’s when I am scared and want to shed the tag.” I’m curious as to what sort of beliefs you’re being told by atheists that atheists are supposed to hold that you don’t share.

    “My beliefs are not for anyone else to decide and spell out.” I don’t think anyone meant to do this. This is a semantic disagreement, not a disagreement as to the substantive content of your beliefs.

    5) “Religion calling dissent ‘blasphemy’ or atheism calling it ‘faith-headness’ is one and the same thing.” I think this is simple name-calling by individuals rather than a trait that atheism and religion share.

    7) “But when the man speaks to an audience, he does exactly the opposite. He stands there as if he was a priest and the auditorium was a church and atheism was a religion. That I object to absolutely. At any rate, if that’s atheism, I do not subscribe.” That’s not atheism, that’s just Dawkins being Dawkins.

    While I agree with most of what you said, I still think your answers indicate a broad tendency to identify atheism generally with its most vocal proponents. If you want to criticize Dawkins and his ilk, criticize them as such. The only way to criticize atheism is to argue that God exists or gods exist.

  3. I get your point. I agree the only way to oppose atheism is to support existence of god. My problem is mostly with the way the term ‘atheism’ is being defined time and again by its “most vocal proponents”. What happens then is that if I say I am an atheist, it carries with itself some ‘n’ number of meanings that has been ascribed to the term by the proponents. I want atheism to mean no belief in god. Period. That’s all. I do not want it to have connotations such as what an atheist thinks about christ, or christians, or texts like Gita. These are independent of atheism and any amount of unifying them in name of the term is unacceptable.

  4. “One requires no ‘positive reason’ to live. You have been thrown in this world full of choices, not to find a purpose but to make one.”

    Some of the most powerful and thoughtful atheists would say that this is precisely the most positive thing in existence, to “make purpose”.

    For instance, take this famous quote by Nietzsche from Beyond Good and Evil,

    “What is essential “in heaven and on earth” seems to be, to say it once more, that there should be obedience over a long period of time and in a single direction: given that, something always develops, and has developed, for whose sake it is worthwhile to live on earth; for example, virtue, art, music, dance, reason, spirituality—something transfiguring, subtle, mad, and divine.”

    These positive assertions come from within (the human will) and are not external (platonic ideals, god or whatever).

  5. Sorry to beat a dead horse, but you might find this link enlightening

    http://atheism.about.com/od/atheismatheiststheism/a/AntiTheism.htm

  6. Just so you know, you ended up on Austin Cline’s site – and no, I’m not the one who told him about you, in case you were wondering.

    http://atheism.about.com/b/a/259113.htm

  7. Thanks Eric. Both for informing me and for the comment on that post. I am not rigid, and I have no shame in saying that you did convince me enough not to bother about the ‘vocal proponent’s excesses’, which has made me comfortable whether the tag ‘atheist’ is attached to me or not. I thought I had said everything in atheism that I needed to. However, maybe a last post to refute charges of laziness is on the way, in a couple of days

  8. You could post on the forums or email him – he does update these things he writes.

  9. I enjoyed your perspective here. But how can you favour an existentialist position and say ‘God does not exist’? I find this a strange conclusion. Surely the question of the existence of God never enters into consideration from an existentialist position? Or perhaps I have misunderstood you, in which case, please accept my apologies in advance.

    Best wishes!

  10. Thanks Chris for enjoying the discussion.
    I totally agree that from the existentialist point of view, god is irrelevant. But, I believe that a clear head on that question, so as to know that either god is nothing or in any case irrelevant for life, is necessary. Or else, there are many moments in life when the uncertainty forces you to dwell on that question and shake a lot of your convictions. The concept of god is clinged on to by the weak and the troubled more than others. Therefore, I guess, it’s better to sort out the question when in best frame of minds.

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

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