Belief and non-belief in a theocentric society

June 24th, 2008

This is something that I’ve been thinking about for some time, and TheAmazingAtheist on Youtube was spot on his latest video.

As an outspoken atheist I am subjected to an inordinate amount of nonsensical loaded questions with fallacious premises. My beliefs regarding God are also constantly the focus of very strange and unfounded assumptions, often the result of simple ignorance but also quite frequently the result malicious distortions made utterly knowingly by those in positions of authority purportedly derived from the divine.

To address all such loaded questions and bizarre assumptions in a single video would be a task too great for any one atheist, even with my “old school” director’s account, which enables me to post videos exceeding ten minutes in length. However, there are two recurring bits of abominable miscomprehension that are in dire need of addressing.

The first is the misnomer of “non-believer” that we atheists all-too-often hear and all-too-often accept. I daresay many of us wear it as something of a badge of honor, but the term contains within it a tacit admission of a theocentric world. Atheists, like all other people, believe and disbelieve in a great number of things. I personally believe in concepts freedom and truth and beauty and all that jazz. I also believe in concretions like the blueness of the sky or the texture of a stucco ceiling. I disbelieve in concepts like fascism and religion and two wrongs make a right. I disbelieve in purported concretions like Santa Claus and Goblins. I disbelieve in God both as a concept and a purported concretion.

So, I am both a believer and a non-believer. It merely depends on the context, the subject, the narrative. If the subject is Santa Claus as a concept, then I am a believer. If the subject is Santa Claus as a purported concretion, then I am a non-believer.
To accept the label of non-believer without any contextual clues or any predefined subject as non-belief in God by default is to give the concept undue credence. By admitting the God question so important that belief or non-belief in him trumps all other beliefs or non-beliefs is to give him undue importance. For “believer” to be the center of a Christian’s identity is perfectly sensible and sensical, but for “non-believer” to be the center of an atheist identity is ridiculous outside of the context of debating theists. We are atheists. Atheist is a word which means that we lack a belief in deities—and that’s all it should or shall ever mean. Whether or not we are non-believers should always depend on the context of the word and if the word is without context we should not acknowledge it as meaning anything. The next time you are called a non-believer, you’re response should be, “A non-believer in what?”

The second of the inglorious sophistries I’ve made this video in hopes of correcting is this silly notion that atheists have rejected God. Now, of course we have rejected God as a concept or an idea, just as most of us with good sense reject communism and dictatorships. We have not, however, rejected God in the sense that one rejects a parent who was never there or a friend who betrayed us. We don’t believe in God, and to reject him in that sense, belief in him is an absolute prerequisite.

Certain theists believe, even after being corrected on this point, that we are deceiving ourselves—that we genuinely do believe in God, but reject him because we want to be able to free ourselves from his will. In other words, we disbelieve in him so that we can disobey him.

This argument holds no water for one simple reason. No idea, regardless of how vile or wicked it might be, has suffered from the idea of being divinely willed. Hitler claimed to be the chosen of God. Albert Fish, who cannibalized children, was a devout Christian who believed that angels would have intervened to save his victims if God had thought his crimes wrong. If we really wanted to do evil, God would not stand in our way—we could make him condone it, just as Christian Scientists make him condone not-treating disease and the Opus Dei sect of Catholics make him condone self-mutilation. God’s will is largely controlled, for all practical purposes, by the will of his believers. And if atheists really wanted to do whatever they wanted, they’d not bother with atheism—they would just say that God approved of whatever behaviors they indulged in.

We don’t believe in God because there is no pressing reason to believe in God. It’s really quite simple and requires little in the way of further explanation.

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