The Problem with the "Atheist"

As I've said, I've never believed in God, which technically makes me an atheist (since the prefix "a" means "not" or "without"). But I have problems with the word "atheism." It defines what someone is not rather than what someone is. It would be like calling me an a-instrumentalist for Bad Religion rather than the band's singer. Defining yourself as against something says very little about what you are for.

That's my biggest objection to the wave of atheist book^ks and Web sites that have come out in the past few years. Simply put, atheism does not offer a constructive worldview. Embracing atheism can, of course, radically alter one's worldview, which I believe is the primary factor responsible for the popularity of books by the "four horsemen" (Richard Dawkins, Christopher Kitchens, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett). But atheism forms only a portion of the naturalist perspective, and a negative one at that. Calling someone an atheist does not offer a way to build socially meaningful relations and institutions. It narrows perspectives rather than broadening them. Nor does atheism necessarily imply a sure path to knowledge, which I believe can be found only through the study of nature, of life, and of human societies. It i not clear how to put atheism into action in our society. Atheism as a term seems only to make people angry, whether adherents or detractors.

There's another problem with defining yourself in opposition to a particular worldview. Because atheism is defined through negation, it's never clear which meaning of "God" one opposes. Some believers revere an interventionist God who regularly influences physical events. Others believe that God rarely if ever exerts any influence over human affairs. Some people believe that God is evident in nature, while others believe that the existence of God can be revealed only through supernatural revelation. Many people believe in more than one god or even in a vaguely defined "spirituality" that does not require the existence of a specific god or gods.

Atheists can hold a similarly broad range of views. For example, an atheist can be someone who has no belief in gods because of a lack of interest in the subject, or someone who believes that gods do not exist. These latter atheists may be proponents of a specific philosophical position that acknowledges the possibility that proof of God's existence might materialize someday. Some people believe that not enough evidence exists too prove or disprove the existence of God, and therefore call themselves agnostic. But if they believe that not enough evidence exists to prove the existence of God, they meet at least one criterion of atheism. and their attitudes about most things may be indistinguishable from those who call themselves atheists. Similarly, people who consider themselves "spiritual" may be de facto atheists, even if they don't call themselves that.


Not only does it define someone by what they aren't, it also suffers from an incredible vagueness that tells people nothing about what a person thinks.

Folksonomies: atheism atheist labels

/religion and spirituality/atheism and agnosticism (0.555591)
/religion and spirituality (0.520067)
/society (0.297789)

atheism (0.914372 (negative:-0.218323)), socially meaningful relations (0.765039 (neutral:0.000000)), god (0.759747 (negative:-0.319541)), similarly broad range (0.754991 (negative:-0.573864)), atheism forms (0.711016 (neutral:0.000000)), specific philosophical position (0.699062 (neutral:0.000000)), atheist book^ks (0.630838 (negative:-0.559493)), constructive worldview (0.604913 (negative:-0.493431)), incredible vagueness (0.603718 (negative:-0.729780)), particular worldview (0.578049 (negative:-0.509903)), biggest objection (0.577804 (negative:-0.559493)), people (0.577575 (negative:-0.546699)), interventionist God (0.572745 (negative:-0.367061)), Dennett). (0.567663 (neutral:0.000000)), Richard Dawkins (0.566031 (negative:-0.343697)), Web sites (0.563134 (negative:-0.559493)), naturalist perspective (0.560727 (neutral:0.000000)), Bad Religion (0.559351 (negative:-0.400407)), primary factor (0.557360 (neutral:0.000000)), Christopher Kitchens (0.550218 (neutral:0.000000)), sure path (0.548325 (neutral:0.000000)), Sam Harris (0.547297 (positive:0.250952)), physical events (0.541723 (negative:-0.367061)), specific god (0.539489 (negative:-0.200940)), supernatural revelation (0.536241 (negative:-0.230218)), human societies (0.534950 (neutral:0.000000)), existence (0.534662 (negative:-0.298199)), human affairs (0.533929 (neutral:0.000000)), atheists (0.500946 (negative:-0.522180)), gods (0.427859 (negative:-0.427306))

Richard Dawkins:Person (0.698750 (negative:-0.343697)), Daniel Dennett:Person (0.670137 (neutral:0.000000)), Web sites:FieldTerminology (0.651632 (negative:-0.559493)), Sam Harris:Person (0.629095 (positive:0.250952)), Christopher Kitchens:Person (0.596385 (neutral:0.000000))

Atheism (0.982803): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
God (0.883701): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Existence of God (0.741063): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Agnosticism (0.645522): dbpedia | freebase
Richard Dawkins (0.631073): website | dbpedia | freebase | opencyc | yago | musicBrainz
Philosophy of religion (0.570171): dbpedia | freebase
Existence (0.568774): dbpedia | freebase
Spectrum of theistic probability (0.567974): dbpedia | freebase | yago

 Anarchy Evolution
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Graffin , Greg and Olson , Steve (2011-10-18), Anarchy Evolution, Harper Perennial, Retrieved on 2013-01-08
  • Source Material []
  • Folksonomies: evolution science punk rebellion counter culture


    04 JUN 2011

     The Scientist Takes No Position on God

    Atheism is not a scientific position, just as belief in a God is not. Scientists find spiritual fulfillment in natural laws. It's interesting to note that the scientist taking no position on god bares a remarkable resemblance to not believing in god.
    Folksonomies: science religion god
    Folksonomies: science religion god