In arguments with theists and in the books of theologians the theists often proclaim we atheists don’t udnerstand God. Well, it’s a fair comment since theists don’t understand god either – they are inconsistent about it, and often provide really poor explanations of what they mean by ‘god’.
The funny thing is that while making such a claim about they are not understood, they also go on to tell us what atheism is. They are very often dead wrong.
This is a short and simple explanation, for theists.
Kinds of Atheist
It is worth remembering that the only meaning to ‘atheism’ that makes sense is what is often termed the pejoratively ‘Dictionary Atheism’.
Social Justice Warriors of the PZ Myers school of unthinking have been trying to create a Social Justice Atheism for some time. Myers first went with New Atheism, then flee out with New Atheists. He tried Atheism+ or A+ (any distinction isn’t worth discussing). Who knows what he’s on for now.
The trouble is that ‘atheism’ really is simply ‘a-theism’, as a-symmetric is non-symmetry. Of course you can have symmetry in one direction and not in another. In a similar way you can be atheist in the direction of one religion while atheistic towards all others. Total a-theism is like total a-symmetry – none of it.
Unfortunately ‘atheism’ doesn’t give us the slightest clue about what else one thinks. Here are some some systems and modes of living that are atheistic:
– Humanist – (capital H). Of course the religious can be ‘humanistic’ (small h), but Humanism is a system of principles that relies on evidence and reason and sees neither that convinces us there are any gods. That’s the reason Humanism is atheistic. If it ever turns out there is a god remotely like the gods we are told about by most religions then Humanists will probably oppose such a god’s oppressive and cruel nature.
– Marxist Communist – Since this system included a perspective on religion that wasn’t particularly favourable it is atheistic in nature. Of course you could be a Communist and religious, if you take the socialist political ideology and marry it with a belief in god. Many Christian Democrats seem to manage this quite well – up to a point.
– Psychopath – Given the lack of empathy, and siince excess empathy and a shut down of the analytical brain is required for religious belief it seems likely that psychopaths will on the whole be atheists. Again that would apply mostly if they had the autonomy of not being indoctrinated. And indoctrinated psychopath might simply think of himself as an evil sinner or as possessed by demons.
The problem for SJW Atheism is that atheism is ONLY about a-theism, and any type of non-believer, even really awful ones, can have an atheistic perspective.
Measures of Atheism
There are measures of atheistic claims that range from bad to good.
1 – “I know there is no god. I can just tell. I have a sense for it. I KNOW!” – Such claims to certain knowledge based on no evidence or reason are really inadequate, and such people are best ignored, unless you want to help them overcome their certainty. The same applies for the religious that claim ‘sensus divinitatis’ – i.e. Alvin Plantinga. I would pass him off as the flake and atrociously poor ‘philosopher’ he is, but for the fact that so many people think of him as a philosopher and not just a flaky theologian. Who knows what delusions convince people of his high status.
2 – “I see no evidence of God, so I know there can’t be one. I have faith that there isn’t one.” – Faith is a really poor reason for believing anything, and that applies to atheists too. Of course, they do base that faith on there being no evidence for god, while believers use faith in spite of there being no evidence of a god; so at least they are not that bad.
3 – “I can prove there is no god.” – I doubt it. It’s hard to say whether this is better or worse than faith based atheism. Probably worse in an intelligent person because you know they don’t have a good grasp on reality; slightly less a indictment of a poorly educated person duped into thinking you can prove such things – at least there’s hope they might learn.
4 – “There is no evidence or reason for god – and that’s the only way we know there isn’t one. On that basis I claim there really isn’t one.” – This isn’t that bad. It’s quite pragmatic. It’s only flaw is a technical one: in matters of philosophy and metaphysics you shouldn’t really make solid claims based on the lack of evidence or reason so far. You might be prepared to bet your shirt on there being no god. See next.
5 – “There is no evidence or reason for god – and that’s why it’s reasonable to act ‘as if’ there isn’t a god. It’s reasonable to NOT pretend that religious claims there is one should give credence to the supposed moralistic demands of this unevidence god. … [and so on].” – This is the only strictly logical position to take, though it’s still pragmatically reasonable to take the previous position.
Arguing With Atheists
For the theist making statements like this:
These atheist fundies act exactly like traditional religious fundies in every way, and yet they deny their religion
they really need to come to terms with the fact that they are likely to be arguing with atheists in 4 or 5.
Atheism really isn’t like a religion – unless you stumble upon the rare 1, 2 or 3, but then if there’s a discussion going on rather than a shouting match you’re probably not interacting with one of those.
Some more points a theist my want to consider when engaging with some atheists: My Atheism.