Counted Among Those
Who Appreciate The Irony
First I'd like to thank you for your time. Right now my 11th grade English class is working on a research paper. I have found your site to be the most helpful, but it still didn't help answer my question.
My paper is on the following thesis statement: Atheism, the religion of not believing. But is it really a religion, or is it just a act of skepticism.
If you could help me out with finding this answer, I would appreciate it greatly, or if you could even point me in the right direction.
Thank you again for your time.
From: "Positive Atheism Magazine"
To: "Matthew Simon"
Subject: Re: About Atheism
Date: November 26, 2001 9:59 PM
My paper is on the following thesis statement: Atheism, the religion of not believing.
If you wish to try to defend this notion that a lack of faith is faith or that the absence of religion is a religion, be my guest. Humor can be fun and even instructive at times. While this bit of "humor" disguises itself as the instructive type, it is actually quite misleading. As a man of truthfulness, I am not willing to help anybody further this slander against atheists -- which slander has caused untold misery to a group of people who, as a class, have done no harm to anybody.
Atheism, to most atheists who even bother to think about their atheism, is simply the lack of theism. The vast majority of atheists don't think about the subject at all -- to the point where we have allowed the Roman Catholic Church (and others) to usurp our sense of self-definition and popularize a false understanding of who we are (and are not).
This false understanding has even made it into several (church-owned) dictionaries, and is almost universally used by the press as the working definition for atheism. However, most atheistic thinkers and writers disagree with the notion that someone is an atheist only if they assert that no gods exist. Some atheists do make this assertion, but most of us don't even think on the subject, and simply lack a god belief (even to the point of lacking an awareness of that lack).
You are invited to read my recent editorial columns, "Atheism: But A Small Part" (April, 2001) and "To Symbolize That Which Is Not?" (August, 2001) both of which address the very error you mention. Atheism, to me, is mostly the way we distinguish ourselves from theists when that need arises (which is a lot more often than I wish were the case). A few atheists would like to see atheism become something worthy of note, but far more atheists are completely unaware that the theism-atheism controversy even exists: we just don't care about the issue.
Then, for a deeper look, check out the first major section of our FAQ piece, "Introduction to Activistic Atheism." While you're at it, check out George A. Smith's "Defining Atheism." Both show atheism to be the mere absence of a belief in the existence of gods, rather than a positive belief that gods do not exist. Humanity can be divided into two classes: (1) those who believe that one or more gods exist, and (2) those who do not. If you believe that one or more gods exist, you are a theist; all others are rightly called atheists.
If, after checking the articles I linked for you, you still suspect that atheism might be a positive belief rather than simply a way for us to distinguish ourselves from theists, I'd be glad to address any objections or questions you might have. But you'll have to catch me when I'm in the mood because even though I am a full-time professional atheistic activist, I rarely if ever think about religion or atheism. It is just not a subject that interests me all that much. I do this work because I want to try to make life better for atheists, not because religion or atheism are subjects worthy of my time or attention. (And yes, I am being facetious, here! I'm just trying to make a point! Only a handful of us even think upon the subject at all. At all! Yes, I'm being facetious, but no, I'm not being very facetious!)
To call the lack of faith a faith is about as below-the-belt as it gets. I strongly urge you to think long and hard about the implications of that statement before committing it to writing as your opinion! I wouldn't want to be counted among those who would actually appreciate the sense of irony intended by that absurdity.
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