To: “Positive Atheism”
Date: March 10, 2006
I am a college professor interested in developing a course that introduces students to atheism.
In the many conversations I’ve had with students about atheism, it has become apparent that ignorance and misunderstanding about atheism is widespread. Thus, I’d like to do my part to attempt to correct some of this thinking.
The problem I am encountering is that most college courses I have come across on the web on atheism or similar topics are taught by either philosophers or religion faculty. I am a science faculty. While I have read volumes of work about atheism, theism, religion, and philosophy, I think it would help to see an example of how a course such as this might be taught by a scientist.
Again, my vision of the course is one that provides a relatively basic introduction to atheism; not an upper-level course.
From: “Positive Atheism”
Date: March 12, 2006
Thanks oh so much for your insightful letter! I set aside some of my other work so I could address these crucial points you raise, since I agree that you stand very little chance of getting “the straight dope” from the sources you describe. Most of the misnomers you mention are propagated by the clergy for the purpose of making atheism appear, in the eyes of their charges, to be a monumentally stupid choice.
Interestingly, I hold similar doubts in regards to most atheists, who tend to fall into two main categories. The small (very small) category contains the atheistic activist, whose opinion, by my experience, is generally fueled by agenda. Between the two groups, however, the activist is the only atheist who cares enough to have given the question any thought at all. The other group, the vast majority of atheists, simply don’t pay attention to atheism — their own atheism or anybody else’s. Many don’t even recognize their own atheism!
I am one of perhaps a few dozen people in the modern world who has dedicated a number of years to the task of rethinking the nature and definition of atheism. The recent and current work of Frank L Pasquale, PhD, is very similar in its goals, though he has a world of advantage in the area of education, of course, as well as a life marked by enviably excellent health under his belt. His work will eventually help you achieve your stated goal of having atheism (etc) defined from a scientific perspective. My work, on the other hand, includes the goal of providing a definition that is easily and, most importantly, widely understood (the prospect of it being accepted being very much a secondary goal for me, right now).
Again, I thank you for the opportunity to at least scratch the surface.
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