Blog Break 12: Thoughts out of season


Fellow sufferers, I haven’t been asked, but I have seen it asked elsewhere by theists, why do we write about our disbelief? They ask why do we engage with theists? I don’t know about you, but I write first because I enjoy writing; two because I enjoy a good conversation with people and especially so that someone who is so steeped in religion may be inspired by my work to think about his/her religion, to entertain some doubt of the received teaching, put it on the table of reason and adopt only those portions, if any, that pass. I write also as a response to what religious apologists write, just so that anyone who happens to come by the particular post may someday find a refutation of the same, at least, to have to hear from both sides.

Having said that, it is for one of the said reasons that I will consider this post, in which the author a preacher comments about a debate he watched but expresses his bias from the word go. He starts by writing

[…]I started to think again about the validity of an “Un-categorized” category. It seems to me that this category is akin to an atheist position while the un-checking of all categories is more like the agnostic position.

Where he contends that the atheist position is un-categorised. I hope the rest of his post will tell us more why this is so. He says the opening statements of the atheists are what irked him from the word go. So what did the atheists say?

Atheism is merely the absence of believe in any God. We are all born atheists, we must be taught to be theists

and

Atheism is a lack of a belief. So I would just like to remind all of you that you are atheists… when it comes to Zeus, Apollo, Thor, or any of the other countless imaginary people that we’ve come up through human history.

Anyone who thinks this definitions are contentious please raise up your hand….. well, I will refer us to wikipedia where atheism is defined as

 in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities. Most inclusively, atheism is simply the absence of belief that any deities exist.

Now that we have established that the two atheists were right in their definitions, as well as their qualifying remarks about children being born atheists and that almost everyone alive today is atheist in reference to Thor or Zeus, let us now proceed to the issues the OP has with atheists. He writes

To me this seems so untrue that I can’t believe it came from the mouth of a self-proclaimed “agnostic atheist” (kind of a contradiction in terms itself, like an “Independent Republican”)

The contradiction rests only in his mind and his failure to understand whatever he sets out to attack. There is no contradiction in terms in a person claiming to be an agnostic atheist. As has been said countless times, agnosticism deals with knowledge claims, and especially about the nature of god, atheism deals with the question of belief or lack thereof. Therefore, when one calls himself agnostic atheist, there is no contradiction.

Do we have to sell dictionaries or distribute fliers to explain the simple fact that atheism is simply a lack of belief in the existence of gods and not a belief system. One wonders why, with the availability of online articles on atheism, a person would still write

you can never say that your system of belief about God is the absence of belief. That makes no sense. How can a structured belief system consider itself to be the lack of all belief. I might agree if they were trying to represent a purely agnostic position, but the “agnostic atheist” can’t make those claims.

and show to the world his ignorance of what he purports to write about? Is it part of christian apologetics to misrepresent atheism to an extent that anyone reading their posts is left more confused that they began? Isn’t rather fair that both sides, as much as possible, at least stick to facts?

He continues by conceding

that we are born atheists, but we’re also born without language and any knowledge of history or science. These all must be taught. You could argue that the only thing we can be seen to be born with is some general morality, though that needs to be fostered through development, and that would seem to point to the competing perspective.

many things that no one contends. We are born without any belief, that much should be obvious to anyone with half a brain. Why he makes it an issue is beyond me.

But his next statement is both shocking and unwarranted. He writes

There is an inherent superiority and snobbery in saying that your system of belief is somehow the default belief. By declaring it as the absence of all belief, you then put the burden of proof on the theist. In my opinion, the person making that point then is basically saying that they have no reason to be an atheist, they are just one by faith.

Last I checked, truth claims, do not respect how a person feels. If you feel inferior that your position ain’t the default position, hang it elsewhere. Examine your beliefs and get a life. And yes, the burden of proof rests squarely with the theist. If you don’t like it, don’t be a theist or easier still don’t write about it. And you are wrong, placing the burden of proof where it belongs shows the person knows his stuff and knows who should be asked to provide evidence for their claims. As your friendly atheist, :-P, wow me with the evidence. I can’t wait to be persuaded.

His next statement is quite ridiculous. He claims, he knows that the above definition

 is not the normal atheist position

and one expects that he will tell us about what this position is. But alas! I must be too ambitious to expect so much from him. He writes

I’m used to Hitchens and others who are brilliant men and persuasive debaters.

Friends, please help me here! Did Hitchens have a different definition for atheism and who are these others our interlocutor is used to?

And as is usual, it gets to the point where the theist decides not to make any sense. For we read

 I know atheists that have spent a lot of time researching and debating within themselves and others and have come to some kind of reasoned atheism. I would challenge that, but I respect that.

Don’t you all think if he knows such atheists as he claims, he would at least know the definition of atheism, he would know with whom the burden of proof lies and lastly he would know that there is no snobbery in declaring the atheist position is the default position.

One wonders why the theist always has to reduce atheism to his level? For, why, tell me, a statement such as

I am opposed to un-reasoned faith of any kind, atheist or theist.

still appear on the web? Are people so impervious to learning?

All too often Christians have made such silly anti-intellectual claims that belie the fact that they haven’t really wrestled with any kind of opposition.

The jury is out on who has made silly anti-intellectual claims. The two atheists or this theist who set to correct them? I have taken my vote, it is a win for the atheists. It is the christian who has made a fool of himself, by setting out to write about atheism and then showing in so many words that he knows nothing or close to nothing about atheism and should remain a preacher, for that is a job that in many cases requires little learning.

It was fun writing this post :-P!

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About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

10 thoughts on “Blog Break 12: Thoughts out of season

  1. jbokel says:

    Thanks for the comments. Rereading my original post made me cringe a few times because I think I overstated my own opinion and the tone wasn’t really appropriate. I do welcome correction when I’m wrong and I appreciate your points. I shouldn’t have said “I know…” in those cases.

    In rethinking my position I was considering these two sorts of statements: “I don’t have reasons to believe there is a god” and “I have reasons to believe that there is no god.” I thought that the first statement is more of an agnostic position and the second is more of an atheistic statement. I apologize for misrepresenting your position as an atheist, but I would appreciate your thoughts on those two statements.

    Those I personally know who claim the label “atheist” would take the second statement. That’s why I considered simply “not believing” as more agnostic than atheist. I hope I’ve explained where I was coming from. Again, thanks for the correction and I apologize for the snarky-ness of my original post. I’ve read a few of your posts now and look forward to reading more.

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    • makagutu says:

      Thanks for your very polite remarks and hope that we can keep engaging further.

      The statements I don’t have reasons to believe there is a god and I have reasons to believe there is no god in my view are not significantly different from each other and I will demonstrate. In regard to statement 1, the claimant hasn’t been given any substantive reason to believe in the existence of a god whereas in the second one, the claimant is saying that all the reasons he has are not conclusive. The two statements can thus be made by different atheists and I see no contradiction.

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  2. Arkenaten says:

    I write against religion and particularly Christianity to counteract the garbage they espouse, largely because I know that these days they can’t pull out the thumbscrews , Iron maidens, pears and stake, kindling and matches.

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  3. tildeb says:

    One would assume that a non bicycle is not described very well if we arrive at the definition of it to be another kind of bicycle. This point seems to elude accommodationists and apologists en masse. We simply don’t use this bent logic in any other area of inquiry except theology. This should be red flagged clue that something’s not quite right here in the reasoning to arrive at the conclusion that a non believer is another kind of believer….

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  4. shelldigger says:

    It is odd how the faithful just cannot wrap their heads around the fact that atheists do not need, or want some kind of belief system. It is as if in their little minds there is no possible alternative, therefore atheism is a belief system. Doesn’t matter how many times we point out that indeed it is not, they just don’t get it. I suppose the reasoning skills required to understand this simple concept are lacking, and strangely enough, if they were present, we probably wouldn’t be dealing with theists.

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    • makagutu says:

      It is certainly quite odd! It’s like we are talking to ourselves. Don’t these guys refer to dictionaries or articles written by atheists before they start typing away on their keyboards?

      Thanks for visiting and for your comments

      Like

  5. Real real me says:

    I wanted to ask you why do you write about religion, it wasn’t clear to me why do you spend your time with something (according to you) non-existent (god(s)), given that you don’t believe in afterlife, as I would comment more often on subjects we agree with, but I thought it might be offensive, so I didn’t ask. Now I’ve been given multiple reasons as answer.

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    • makagutu says:

      You are free to ask me any question my friend. You know I don’t bite and most times unless someone is outright rude to the host or to any guest, I will be quite polite.

      Like

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