Admission Of Ignorance
vs. Certitude Of No-Faith
Richard H. Velvart

From: "richard h. velvart"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Sent: September 27, 2001 2:00 AM
Subject: Big_List_Of_Quotations

Dear Sir,

I very much enjoyed the quotations even agreed with some. However it is much too soon to pass judgement on little Georgie. He is doing alright so far. Besides, the President is smart enough if he selects people smarter than he is. G.W. has done so.

By the way I am an agnostic which is not 'sitting on the fence' but an admission of ignorance in the matter. To be a flag-vawing aetheist is being endowed with the certitude of no-faith. And certitude is the one thing no reasonable soul can claim for him/her self.

Yours truly

Graphic Rule

From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "richard h. velvart"
Subject: Re: Big_List_Of_Quotations
Date: September 27, 2001 2:39 AM

I suspect that "Georgie" is, alas, too stupid even to pick a cabinet of winners, so the Republican Party stepped in and did this for him (possibly leaving him the office of Attorney General as a token "pick"). Also, I suspect that several members of his team would not have played for anybody else, but dutifully stepped in during this crisis because they felt they owed it to their country, feeling it their duty to compensate for the unthinkable actually happening on January 20.

Careful examination of my writings since that date will reveal that I have yet to use the word elected to modify in any way the proper noun George W. Bush.

I'm not being too cynical, am I?

Short Graphic Rule

You will be interested to note that we use the classic "weak" definition for the word atheism, the definition which most atheistic writers have used since it stopped being a capital crime to write favorably about atheism. This means that to us, an atheist is (at minimum) any person who lacks a god belief.

Of course this would include those people who think they are "endowed with the certitude of no-faith." However, they are a small minority among atheists. Most of us are barely aware of our atheism, since theism is not a part of our lives. I am an activist only because my civil rights were trampled in 1988 and because I have suffered my entire life because of my unwillingness to "get a God."

"Weak" atheism neatly divides humanity into two groups: those who have a god-belief and those who do not. Thus, atheism is the default condition when it comes to religious belief: we start out our lives without a god-belief and (usually) quickly learn to believe in whatever deities our parents believed in (or, more recently, which deities our parents wanted us to believe in, they being unbelievers but suffering from the delusion that religion is necessary for the instillation of morals in children).

Just as the "weak" definition divides humanity, it also neatly divides agnosticism: some agnostics believe in a god (but that's all they know: God's existence; they know nothing more about the subject); the rest do not know whether or not gods exist (and thus lack a god belief).

Thus, atheism is rarely a position of certitude because hardly any of us claim to know for sure. This makes sense, because very few theists claim to know for sure, either. Theistic faith ranges from "The reality of God is more real to me than even 'waking reality' is to me" through "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief" (Mark 9:24). Similarly, atheism, the lack of a god-belief, ranges from "All gods are make-believe" to "God? What's a God?"

The problem started when Roman Catholic theologians devised several ways to "refute" the atheistic position (this in addition to the currently popular argument, which was usually uttered slightly downwind of the atheist so that the victim would burn more slowly and thus have that much more time to repent). The most successful argument was based on the (false) notion that atheism means "the denial of the existence of God." So, it quickly spread among the Roman Catholic and thus the Protestant worlds that an atheist is someone who denies the existence of God. Later, certain Freethinking infidels picked up on this definition, became dissatisfied with the notion of certitude, and invented agnosticism as a "third alternative" between what they (falsely) saw as dogmatic theism and the dogmatic denial of theism's gods.

Agnosticism is still seen as more reasonable than atheism (as has humanism) but this has never been my observation. The agnostics of the nineteenth century were every bit as vitriolic as Madalyn Murray O'Hair could have ever hoped to be. Even today, very few agnostics I've met would tolerate the dogmatic insistence that Jesus died for their sins and that they'd better repent or they'll burn forever in the pits of the Christian Hell. Hardly anybody is "agnostic" on that one: either you believe it or you don't. Agnosticism is not and never has been a refuge against antireligious sentiments. Neither has humanism, which, like agnosticism, is often as vitriolic in its denunciations and adamant in its unbelief as atheism has ever been portrayed. Finally, some forms of agnosticism are very dogmatic in asserting that we cannot know whether or not gods exist.

I am just trying to show that agnosticism is not necessarily the haven of reasonableness that some would like us to think it is. If it was, I would be calling myself an agnostic today instead of an atheist. However, what I want to do is reach the largest category of people who, among other things, lack a god belief. That big category is, I think, atheism. I realize that I have a tough road ahead of me considering that atheism has been so widely misrepresented as meaning "the bold assertion that no gods exist." Atheism is seen as the ultimate dogmatic folly, but this is a slander, a lie that has been perpetrated for the purpose of making it easier to discredit our position before the unthinking public.

What I am trying to do with Positive Atheism is popularize the "weak" definition and point out that most atheists (that is, most people who lack a god-belief) spend little if any time thinking about the subjects of religion and atheism. I am not trying to portray all atheists as being this way, but am trying to bring awareness of the idea of simply lacking a god belief.

Thus:

If we can popularize the notion that many (if not most) non-religious people simply don't think about the subject (whatever we end up calling it), we can go far in reducing the stigma and slander and bigotry leveled against atheists and all non-theistic people.

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six years of service to
    people with no reason to believe

Graphic Rule

Material by Cliff Walker (including unsigned editorial commentary) is copyright ©1995-2006 by Cliff Walker. Each submission is copyrighted by its writer, who retains control of the work except that by submitting it to Positive Atheism, permission has been granted to use the material or an edited version: (1) on the Positive Atheism web site; (2) in Positive Atheism Magazine; (3) in subsequent works controlled by Cliff Walker or Positive Atheism Magazine (including published or posted compilations). Excerpts not exceeding 500 words are allowed provided the proper copyright notice is affixed. Other use requires permission; Positive Atheism will work to protect the rights of all who submit their writings to us.