Sunday, May 30, 2010

Advocatus Atheist Book on the Horizon

A possible book in the works. I've decided to compile and edit the best blogs posts about Atheism and Secular philosophy, refine and edit them, and make a book out of the best writings I have here. Let me know if it's something you'd be interested in, why or why not, in the comments section below. Thanks!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Why Texas? Why???

Why Texas? Why???

Texas State Board of Education board members want people to know that: America’s laws and government should be based on the Christian Bible. When I read this, I was like, WTF?! You’ve gotta’ be kidding me.

Sadly, it’s no joke. But it gets worse folks. If you’ve been reading the news lately you’ll probably be aware of the fact that they made disreputable changes to the social studies curriculum, changes which will affect five million (that’s right—five frackin' million!) student's educations. How is this? The Texas State Board of Education is the second largest purchaser of K-12 school textbooks (after California). Meaning what Texas requests as the educational curriculum standard usually becomes the country wide standard.

Why should this bother us? Well, first of all it seems the board members are making up a fake history as they go along—and have sent the expert historians, sociologists, scientists, and political science experts packing—which should throw up red flags right there.

The Texas school board’s historic battle against the theory evolution is just one small example of their discomfort with scientific facts. This utter lack of awareness as displayed by the majority of the Texas State Board of Education board members may become the standard, a frightening notion if there was one. Lower the bar a little bit more, why not?

In turn, this disgustingly low standard, more like a standard of retardation, bolsters other state education boards to attempt the same feats of brain aching stupidity, and for other narrow-minded states, like Kansas, it gives them an excuse to continually attempt to ban evolution from their discourse and from their textbooks (see this MSNBC and New York Times articles for more detail on the ongoing anti-evolution battle HERE and HERE).

Meanwhile, in an unrelated yet equally dubious act, the Arizona legislature has passed an overtly racist and discriminatory boarder protection law which is technically out of its jurisdiction since boarder matters are taken up at the national level (unless Arizona can begin to issue or revoke U.S. Visa status they have no authority to deport foreign nationals at the local state level—illegal aliens or not—that’s an issue for Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of State and the Bureau of Consular Affairs—yet that’s not the only thing wrong with the law; but I digress).

Whatever nonsense is going down in the southern areas of the U.S., Texas is leading the charge! Yobie Benjamin at the San Francisco Chronicle reports:

One of the most controversial changes is to deny the slave trade. The Texas Board of Education wants to refer to the slave trade as the "Atlantic triangular trade". What the hell is the "Atlantic triangular trade"? What do you call the millions of African-Americans whose ancestors came here as slaves? Descendants of triangulates?

Likewise, the Texas Freedom Network president Kathy Miller opines, “All of these issues, as serious as they are, are really symptoms of the larger problem — allowing politicians with personal agendas to write our children’s curriculum, rather than teachers and scholars.”

Meanwhile, one of the more self righteous board members, Cynthia Dunbar, has gone on public record as laying out the “Christian nation” vision of American history that the board’s powerful bloc of social conservatives advocates, espousing, “I believe no one can read the history of our country without realizing that the Good Book [Holy Bible] and the spirit of the savior have from the beginning been our guiding geniuses.”

If you’re not flabbergasted by now you should be. Not only is this religious ill-bread ethnocentrism painful to listen to for any well cultured or culturally open minded person, but Dunbar goes one further as she has written in detail on how to apply a “Christian litmus test” to the national education curriculum as to safeguard it from the influence of evil so that America’s public education system won’t become, and I quote, “subtly deceptive tool of perversion.” Wow, such a completely baffling, mind boggling, display of stupidity… and this is the guiding influence behind America’s education system. Seriously, how can we not be bothered by this?

Words cannot begin to describe the antipathy I feel for those who threaten my child’s future, and the future of all children, by withholding them a proper education and, not only this, promising to brainwash them into mindless zombies for Christ as well. I’ll teach my child about religion all in due time, I don’t need some crackpot Ms. Braybrook to do it for me. It is my opinion that this Dunbar lady is in need of some serious psychiatric counseling. We literally have a religious radical in our midst influencing other highly devout believers who have sway over the nation’s education system, and as a result our children's futures are at stake. 

Whatever happened to Thomas Jefferson’s ideal wall of the Separation of Church and State? America is not, nor has ever been, a Christian nation—although many Christians have lived there. It’s a nation of freedom, which comes with individual liberties, and in this liberty comes the freedom of religious diversity as well as the freedom from religious theocracy. This is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which reads "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . ."

Anyone who is concerned that America’s education curriculum has taken a turn for the worst need only ask: Why Texas, why?

However, since protesting such a faith-based initiative, and the blinkered unthinking religionists who want to zionize everyone and everything,  seems to me to be like two nearly identical yet opposing castles are all screaming at each other but cannot make out what the other is saying; a futile endeavor if ever I saw it. So instead of protesting I've decided that I shall give my support to the Texas State Educational school board in changing history to whatever we wish it to be, mean, or say. I mean, real tangible facts are subject to our subjective interpretation, right? Therefore anything which we find disagreeable may be bent to our every subjective whim, after all, keen objectivity is for know-all elitist intellectual snobs. Heaven forbid we endure any of that them there erudite thinking (as if we're concerned about a proper education in the first place--don't make us laugh).

For starters, why not simply re-label the Holocaust to be called “A Dreary Day” instead? After this, we can call World War I “that thing we did with planes,” and concordantly WWII would become “that thing we did with planes, bombs, and cigarettes in which all our grandpas died.” The Vietnam War could simply be “The Liberation of Vietnam” because we wouldn’t want to have any anti-American sentiment now, would we? The Bay of Pigs could be renamed “That War Everyone Forgot About.” And when we talk about the nation’s founding fathers we’ll simply claim they were all Christian and ban all their writings which state to the contrary. No more Age of Reason, no more Virginia Statute, just Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson, proud Christian founding fathers, because according to the zealot Dunbar, America is a Christian nation--just as surely as my atheist feet be wearing Christian shoes. See? It makes perfect sense.

Capitalism becomes a dirty word and the slave trade becomes the “Atlantic triangular trade,” and while we’re at it, why not have women’s suffrage simply be called “Bossy women who talk too much incident” since we surely don’t want to dismiss Biblical authority on such matters, doubly since the Bible is crystal clear that women are property (chattel) and have no rights unto themselves outside of the marriage or subjugation to a man. If we want a truly Christian nation where the Bible is the authority, we better go all out and not just half ass it, right? God willing, homosexuality would be classified as a "contagious disease which frequently causes natural disasters," and women's cleavage would be deemed "mountain shaking impropriety" literally  too dangerous to gaze upon due to the accursed boob-quakes which would ensue via God's unchecked wrath. 

Expectations to the contrary, we wouldn't want too many modern ideas getting into our heads lest it make us civilized. And what would a God-fearing people desperately holding on to bronze aged myths and mentality do if they found out their God simply didn't exist? God forbid! And goddamn those lying God-haters and blasphemers for besmirching God's good name. Might as well rename all free thinkers and atheists to "Social Communist Satan Worshiping Nihilists," and call it a day.

Frankly speaking, this whole Texas debacle frightens me. It appears, from my vantage point of a critical minded, well educated, non-religious, rational human being that if the Texas State School Board has its way—then we’re headed right towards the sequel to the Dark Ages. But you don’t have to take my word for it, just wait until the new textbooks arrive, indeed, for ways to know in how to grow, just take a look, it’s in a book… reading rainbow. But be forewarned, if you agree to buy Texas published textbooks, you’ll only be growing stupider by the page. And don’t be expecting LeVar Burton to come to your rescue with his books of knowledge, because, well, he’s a Descendant of the Triangulate, not to forget, and Arizona will probably—having confused him for some sort of minority because of the color of his skin—have already shipped him off by the time anyone wises up to what’s going on.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Advocatus Atheist on Blogger or Word Press?

I thought I'd try out Word Press to see what all the hubbub is about. I have to admit I like the functionality of it, the options, the formatting, better programming language, and better post moderation (and I do like the idea of blocking spammers).

The downside, no advertising revenue, no ad-sense, it's import feature works fairly okay--as it imported all of my posts, but it keeps the format during the import only to then  publish all wonky on Word Press. I have to reformat nearly everything manually just to be readable. It would have been nice if they would have just imported as a plain text to begin with, because fighting two formatting types causes everything to be offset, the wrong font, type set, color, etc. Blogger also gives you the option to *justify the alignment of your text without HTML formatting. There's no *justify option in Word Press, and for a place called Word Press that just baffles me.

Another downside is that it has too many tabs, features, which are disorganized, and although they are nifty sometimes it's hard to figure out which part of the page you're in. It makes the learning curve way higher than I expected. I was fiddling around with it for two days now and I'm still foggy on some of the features, how to get them in order, or work smoothly. Granted I will figure it out, what I love about Blogger is that it's so simple, quick, efficient and easy to use. I write most of my stuff in MS Word anyway, so I don't need a sophisticated program to edit in.

Blogger posts nearly three times faster than Word Press. And because editing is less of a hassle, especially if I catch something and need to quickly jump in and edit, Blogger makes writing and posting much more efficient and less of a headache. Word Press has a better range of capabilities and options. But for a writer who is publishing online, I prefer the quickness and efficiency of Blogger over Word Press.

That's my initial take on the two. For now, however, I think I'll be sticking with Blogger for a while longer. That said, if I become accustomed to Word Press I might actually begin to prefer it. Only time will tell.

So let me know what you think! Do you want to see Advocatus Atheist stay on Blogger or move to Word Press (or both)? Follow the link, check out the Word Press Advocatus Atheist page and let me know what you think! 

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Scarlett Letter

For me the Atheist's symbol, a Scarlett letter A (most frequently written in Zapfino font), represents mainly three things: 1) Group Affiliation, 2) Positive Symbolism, 3) Aesthetic value.

First off, I do not see the Scarlett A itself as a symbol of belief... it's a symbol of affiliation with those who reject the belief of theism for whatever reasons, ergo atheism (hence the choice of the letter A). 

For those worried that affiliation equals religious institution, that shared beliefs equal dogma, and that agreement means conforming to some diktat, don't jump the gun just yet. Modern icons are used by various groups with affiliation in mind, just think of the popular sports icons such as the New York Yankees logo or the red crescent of the Red Cross, these symbols do not necessarily denote any sense of dogmatism, but act as a way to show one's affiliation by  showing their personal support for their favorite sports team or local charity.

Affiliation need not mean we are like minded. Politics is a good example to think about, since it depicts affiliation with people who, more often than not, may all be part of the same party but can't seem to agree on anything as they each hold diverging opinions or ideas about key topic issues. It's about solidarity not conformity.

Groupthink need not apply to atheists either, and therefore, in this autonomous sense the Scarlett A simply shows that there are more of us out there, that we're not just some fringe group of angry rabble rousers. Every time an educated speaker wears the pin on their lapel it shows that atheists aren't just God hating religious bashers, to the contrary, it shows we are thinking sophisticated people with morals and values too. Indeed, it shows that there are other ways of thinking.

I think that's the first major element to the Scarlett letter A and what it represents.

So although it may include a sign of affiliation, it's affiliation with people--not ideologies. This is a key difference which often goes overlooked. It needn't be considered dogmatic for this reason.

Whereas a cross (crucifix) represents one orthodox way of thinking--one dogma--one God, just one way--the Scarlett A, on the other hand, represents the rejection of this theistic hierarchy of restrained thought and dictated beliefs. A Scarlett letter A can represent a myriad of possible trains of thought, all of them valid, none of them bound to dogmatic limitations of any one particular creed. One way to test this is to ask what dogma could it possibly represent? See? Nothing comes to mind.

This directly ties into, and leads leads us to, the second use of positive symbolism. The Scarlett letter A has a positive connotation too. Naturally people think of words like Awesome, Able, American, Autonomy and so on when they see the bold letter A. It sparks positive imagery not only on an aesthetic level but contains a rich subtext of deeper symbolism as well.
Not only all this, the third aspect is that it truly does have a nice aesthetic value, especially in such an elegant font. As such, it looks nice as a pendant, button, or jewelry too. So if you're an atheist who likes to dress up, now you can dress up in style! Although I speak only for myself, I say it's about time. Hopefully I'll see you around, fellow atheists!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Embarrassed by Faith

Embarrassed by Faith

Sometimes I run across an atheist or ex-believer who was so embarrassed by their prior religious affiliations that they don’t even want to talk about it. Granted, this is their right, but for me personally I find that by addressing my past embarrassment I can get it out there as a cathartic exercise in showing what not to do, how not to think, how not to act. 

In fact, I think it will be more than cathartic to address my past proclivities in the hopes of not only better understanding why it is atheism makes so much more sense, but perchance it might act as a beacon of reason to help guide others out of the stormy waters of unreasoning dogmas.

I grew up in the Assemblies of God Church. You can look them up if you don’t know their basic tenets. In essence they are an Evangelical branch of Pentecostal Christianity which takes a legalistic and fundamental approach to Biblical authority. They believe the Bible is the God inspired word, believe in divine healing, and baptism by the Holy Spirit.

First off, I should consider myself lucky, because I grew up in small rural communities where the Assemblies of God churches I attended were not charismatic brainwashing camps, although I saw my fair share of those too. Strangely enough, nearly all of my friends were raised Catholic, so they grounded my perspective and balanced some of the radical beliefs I held onto.

What did these beliefs entail? Well, as I said, faith healing was popular. If someone in your church had the “gift of healing” it meant that God and Jesus Christ had blessed them with the power to heal in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Who could be healed? Why anybody who had enough faith, of course. If you went to a healing session and weren’t cured instantly, then it was because of your lack of faith, not the fault of the healer… and certainly not the Lord’s problem.

Another peculiar belief I held was that speaking in tongues (glossolalia) was considered a sign that the Holy Spirit had descended unto me! Modern psychology and neuroscience have confirmed that religious glossolalia is in fact utter gibberish—and furthermore has shown that the language part of the brain actually shuts down, so it cannot be considered a divine language by any stretch of the imagination—since the very part of the brain which is meant to try and comprehend it has shut down. Never mind though, it’s a matter of faith remember, if you don’t have faith then it’s not going to work. Anyone as skeptical enough to believe what science says doubts the validity of the claim, their faith is weak at best, and so they could never be considered to understand or appreciate the profundity of speaking in tongues. So on Sundays my friends and I would raise out hands to the sky, and in a trance-like state, beging to say things like: "Eiplora extol ni exubrihim nilohim, sanctus molifik Jesus, oh Lord, sorben tai qaulifique oota ootoo loo… Hakuna Matata Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious…” and all that jazz. People would occasionally faint, but only in the large more crowded churches. Wherever there were large crowds there was a better chance of people becoming entranced or hypnotized by the smooth talking pastor.

At any rate, it was all a bunch of nonsense.

Baptism was another big deal. I remember being baptized when I was an infant, later as a child, and then again when I became “born again.” Three baptisms seems symbolic of the Christian Trinity, but believe you me, it’s a redundant waste of time. Of course I say that now, but when you’re a believer it seems necessary, in fact, vitally important as your very soul is at stake! Each baptism is a way to shed your sins, be forgiven all over again, and get a fresh start. You’d be surprised at how many Christians will take you up on the offer to be re-baptized. They can’t get enough of it.

These were the strange rituals I partook in. Needless to say Pentecostalism has many other stranger beliefs still. In some more radical sects they believe you can drink snake venom without poisoning yourself. How does one go about doing this? Do they train with animal professionals? No. Do they learn the tricks of the trade from an illusionist? Not a chance. They take it all on a matter of faith.

Oddly enough, no matter what natural disasters were happening in the world, it was all the work of the Devil. Either that or God was deliberately punishing people for their sin (which he supposedly forgave them of during their numerous baptisms—but never mind). We were warned each week that we were being tempted by the anti-Christ away from the savior. Everything from music, to movies, to a pretty prom date could potentially be the devil in disguise. Most enthusiastic Pentecostal churches ban music, movies, and showing public signs of affection. Children have been told they can’t even join prom because it would include dancing with a girl, gasp, it would include physical touch, oh now, it would include bodies rubbing up against each other and pulsating hearts beating to the rhythm of the DJ—God forbid!

The Assemblies of God regulations varied depending on the rules of each independent congregation and church committee. It was left up to the elders to decide. My own church merely advised against such things, but other than this stern warning, didn’t deem it worth denying them to us. This probably had more to do with the fact that we were all stuck in a small farming community within a town that had no movie theater, no real restaurants, and just a few pubs and churches. It was better you were at home watching a film than causing a ruckus at the local bar or tavern.

Some people grow up their whole lives under the spell of religion. They never question it, because they never know anything of the world outside of the confines of their rural community. This is why a college education is so vital in liberating one’s mind, prying it open, and cramming all kinds of valuable information in there. Most of all, though, it teaches us to ask questions. Even as I was a gun-ho Evangelical going into college, I came out of the University system a learned and more level head, well rounded, individual. Chalk it up to experience, but an education helps (see HERE).

Moving to a foreign country and learning another language opened up my horizons even more. With a worldliness comes a much broader perspective, and I learned to have an even greater sympathy than anything my prior faith had to offer. In fact, the compassion of my past faith seemed tribal and barbaric to the multiculturalism which now compelled me to think more humanely about the equality of peoples. I learned patience and tolerance, but I didn’t learn that from my faith, I learned that from engaging with the real world and dealing with the people there.

Faith was only able to teach me so much, and in rhetrospect, it wasn’t much at all. That’s why I feel such embarrassment when I look back on my religious days, because for me, it shows how truly self righteous, arrogant, and foolhardy I really was. In actuality, I was a know-it-all know nothing.

The photograph I include with this essay is a reflection of that cocky religious attitude, because I was in the mind set that I had a mission to spread the good news, to share the message of the Gospel, and to proselytize, evangelize, and win souls for Christ. When I met my wife I was still an intolerable, wanna-change-you, Christian. 

Before we were married I bought my wife an NIV study Bible, and on the dedication page I wrote the message that you see above. At the time it didn’t cross my mind how insulting it would be to tell someone else from a totally different culture that they were wrong, to expect them to change for me without justification, and to relinquish their entire upbringing along with societal and cultural beliefs because (for some reason) mine were true and hers weren’t. 

I don’t know how she even put up with me those first few years. Insulting, impertinent, and insolent know-all doesn’t even begin to describe such lack of respect. But do you want to know how I justified it? I’ll tell you, it was because I had faith and she didn’t. That’s how I knew I was right and she needed saving.

Buying my wife a Bible, at the time, seemed like the best way to express my love. I wanted to share with her this deep and meaningful faith I had. Not only this, I wanted to save her eternal soul as not to suffer being apart from her. How greedy and self centered is that? Not only was I so lonely that I wanted to bring her over to my side as to keep her, since my church had strong opinions on marrying others outside of the faith, it was the only way I could ensure both happiness and a continuation of my faith. 

In retrospect, it looks damn selfish not to mention flagrantly foolish. Here I was telling a gorgeous intelligent woman not to be who she was but to be something other than what she was. Basically, don't be Buddhist because I'm Christian is not a valid argument. I’m lucky she didn’t leave me completely for a more level headed man.

Well, what can I say? The heart wants what the heart wants. Love is more powerful even than faith (see my Deconversion Testimony HERE). And it was because of this love that I was forced to re-evaluate everything that I thought I knew. Even so, in the end my rational brain finally turned on. After years of indoctrination into a bizarre faith with even stranger beliefs, I finally came to see the light of reason. Better late than never, if you ask me.

Now that I've studied the fringe movements of Christianity quite a bit, and have dealt with people worse off than myself (ever hear of the cult called Universal and Triumphant?) then I think you'll understand why I can identify with embarrassing and wildly asinine religious ideologies. I have sympathy for those caught up in such muddled thinking... and that's one of the reasons I write—to act as a beacon of reason. May it help to guide others out of the confusion of parochial, inward-looking, partisan types of faith. 

I’m not saying anyone must agree with me or believe what I believe, but that by challenging their religious beliefs, and by questioning them, they might begin to think for themselves and, perhaps, learn to see things less myopically, less one-sided, that is to say, if willing, less blinded by faith. For them, a new way of seeing, a better way if you ask me, awaits them.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Atheism Defined: According to the Advocatus Atheist

Atheism Defined: Introduction

How does one come to be an atheist? For that matter, what is an atheist? What does it mean to embrace atheism? What do atheists believe?

I’ll tell you what they don’t believe. Atheists don’t believe in God. That, at least, we all can agree on. Yet for many who adhere to religious faith of one kind or another, and believe in God, such a concept is not only dreaded, it’s downright detestable. This is why religions of various stripes often deem atheism heretical. As such, there have been many attempts to define atheism according to the theistic worldview, since atheism is in opposition to theism, but still many people are under a misconception about what atheism is and what it means. It is to the point where the majority of atheists get marginalized in society and are frequently discriminated against as moral abominations (see: the article "Atheists as "Other"..." in the American Sociological Review). I wish to set the record straight about what atheism means and what an atheist is. Hopefully my general overview of atheism will be agreeable with what the majority of atheists think. I know there is controversy surrounding the term, but we will discuss this shortly.

Atheism Roughly Defined
Just as theism is the belief in a supernatural God, atheism is the lack of belief in God and the rejection of the theistic proposition. Atheism, based on this crude designation, is the contrary position to theistic belief, therefore atheism is opposed to theism, in this sense atheists often find theistic beliefs unwarranted (for reasons we will soon get to). Contrary to what some on both sides of the argument have espoused, atheism isn't the claim that theism is false, since this would be a positive statement and is incorrect for the following reasons. Atheism isn't a positive truth claim, it's the rejection of one which fails to stand up to scrutiny. Therefore atheism doesn't claim anything is 'false' because this would be assuming that said thing might probably 'true' in the first place. The theist claim that God is real cannot be confirmed, and so, cannot be said to be true or false. The existence of God is, at this time, simply unknown. So nobody can correctly assert the claim is true, therefore there's no reason to believe that this truth claim is false since the truth claim technically cannot be made to begin with. There can only be the rejection of the claim. We can, however, argue that the belief in God’s existence is false for various other independent reasons.

I don’t disagree with the idea the atheists believe that the concept of God is false, but Atheism itself is the ‘absence’ of a certain type of belief, not the presence of an equivalent belief. It feels wrong to advance the lack of a belief as correct, let alone established. True and false claims only work if you are starting from a position of not knowing, with regards to the existence of God this would mean we would have to start from the default position of agnosticism; not of absolute certainty. Therefore atheism is NOT the claim that theism is false, but instead atheism is the rejection of the theist assumption that theism is somehow the de facto truth.  

The Dictionary Definition of Atheism
The Oxford Dictionary of English (2005) allows for both definitions stating that atheism is: either the lack of belief that there exists a god, or the belief that there exists none. So there is, in essence, positive and negative atheism with regards to the theist stance.

This attempt to supply a definition is probably not definitive, but I would be remiss if I didn’t at least try. As I understand it, the term atheism breaks into two basic meanings depending on one’s perspective with regards to theism. This leaves us with 1) a positive claim, that there is no God, and 2) the negative claim, a plain lack of belief in said God.

Therefore we might say, depending on one's atheistic outlook, that…

Positive Atheism is: the position that there is no available, substantive evidence for the existence of any God or gods, and thereby rejects theism.


Negative Atheism is: the lack of belief, for various reasons derived from objective experience, common sense intuition, and perhaps cultural upbringing so that, all things being considered, the theistic claim rings untrue and cannot be believed without further validation.

This covers both definitions, according to the two listed in the Oxford Dictionary of English. I think both definitions are sound. That said, however, there is no plausible reason to use the modifier of positive or negative before atheism, since according to the Oxford Dictionary, the final authority on the English language, both meanings are encompassed within the single term Atheism.

Of course, as some with attention to detail may point out, there are all sorts of varieties of atheism. There are hybrid terms such as Christian Atheist, Millitant Atheist, Naturalistic Atheist, and so on.  But as a rule of thumb I rely on the principle of parsimony when it comes to defining atheism. Why create so many new variations of the term when the current terminology suffices? Excess terminology is needless since one can simply clarify their point in just a few words. There’s no reason to create terms like “militant-atheist,” or “Christian-atheist” or “Reactionary Atheist,” “Blue” or “Green Atheist,” etc. They’re all superfluous since the term atheist encompasses them all.

What we need to sort out beforehand is the position of atheists (or at least the majority of them) on the existence of god(s) and the truth merit of religions. This can be defended, as “what atheists think,” far less awkwardly. The belief that no God or gods exist may seem like a substitute system of belief, but it’s not. It’s the absence of a belief system. What needs to be brought to everyone’s attention is that the belief that there is no God or gods is predicated on, as we will soon get to, naturalistic observations.

The Rejection of the Supernatural
Atheists merely look at the available evidence of theistic "truth" claims and find them to be lacking in all the areas that matter, mainly empirical evidence and subsequent support, and as a consequence are completely unconfirmed, unjustified, and unproved. Based on this we cannot presuppose God exists, and so the proposition must be rejected on the basis of intellectual honesty. Reason dictates that if something is unreasonable to believe, lacks any real tangible empirical evidence, fails to predict the world it claims to define, and frequently predicts wrongly, then we are within our right to reject it. To accept something at face value which is virtually lacking in any veritable proof whatsoever would be a position of faith. Hence the rejection of theistic claims is predicated on the fact that they lack support, so are not trustworthy, thereby cannot just be assumed without further validation.

What follows then is that atheists do indeed reject the supernatural for the very same reason they reject theism. There is no verifiable evidence to support theistic claims about God or the metaphysical claims about the supernatural.

Atheism does not arise out of one's stubbornness to accept the theist proposition (which is what one must tacitly assume if one is to believe that atheists don't reject the supernatural), rather atheists must reject the supernatural for the very same reason they reject God, otherwise they would be in danger of cognitive dissonance.

Problematic Terminology: Debating Misnomers
In truth, one of the reasons atheism is so appealing to ex-Christians like myself is that it doesn’t leave us with any cognitive dissonance. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an ex-Muslim has said the same. Theism is totalitarian in design because it sets up a system of legalistic thought which is under the rule of a supreme Lord with uninfringeable decrees, sacred rights, and divinely sanctioned moral precepts. To adhere to the theist position means to subject one’s self to the rules of a higher authority, thereby relinquishing one’s autonomy. For many people this gives order and a sense of security to their lives. Everything is being overseen, they are looked after, and for them this is a comforting thought. I know this because I can speak from experience, not only because I was a deeply religious believer for three decades, but also because most of my family members are still deeply devoted Christians and they have expressed as much to me in our religious discussions.

In contrast, the feeling one is left with after embracing atheism is pure liberated, joyous, enlightenment. It’s freedom of thought, pure and simple. It’s full autonomy independent of any divine overlord or imposing religious hierarchy. And unless you were first an atheist, only to later take up a rigid belief system with doctrines and rules, with ordained practices and dogmatic convictions, well, I don’t see how any theist could properly define atheism from within the enclosure of a sheltered faith. I’m not saying they couldn’t come to understand or comprehend atheists, but unless they’ve experienced it firsthand, theirs is not the final say on whom or what an atheist is.

Granted, the term atheism causes people a great deal of confusion. Why it this? Because it’s a strange term which, according to a naturalistic worldview, shouldn’t even exist. Perhaps the irony of this can be better explained via analogy. Consider the person who doesn’t collect stamps. It’s not in their interest, it’s not their hobby, and it may be that in their whole life they never had the slightest urge to collect stamps. What do we call them? Nothing. We call them absolutely nothing. But along come the dogmatic stamp collectors, zealot aficionados, who find any disinterest in stamp collecting an offense. You don’t collect stamps? What’s wrong with you?! From now on you shall be called the non-stamp collector!

How silly is that? Yes, I am aware of the irony of calling myself an atheist, and I can’t help but find it a little gratuitous—except for the theist need to define those who don’t subscribe to their faith based beliefs—atheism is largely a senseless term. Yet because of theistic opposition, which has increasingly become necessary, we find that atheism becomes not only a valid term, but essential.

Drawing the Line in the Sand: On Atheism and Advocacy
Atheism is now used to mark a line of delineation, and is used as an indicator in society to mark a separation between those who believe and those who don’t. But more importantly, the very existence of atheists shows us that there is a reason to doubt those who offer the theistic worldview as the only valid one, and to expose the deficiency of their beliefs by challenging them. Some have called this militant atheism, but again, it’s simply the rejection of theism with the added reasons of why. If theists ask why we reject their beliefs, accordingly we must give just reply, and that will entail giving an explanation for why we lack or reject the theistic claims. Therefore there is no such thing as militant atheism. We are free to explain ourselves as we may.

Someone might raise the objection and ask, “But then why do you feel you have to call yourself anything?” Obviously, that’s easier said than done—especially with every religious believer, and there are a lot of them, trying to tell us what we do and don’t believe. I don’t know about anybody else, but I can make up my own mind, thank you. And whether we like it or not, if we don’t want to be pigeonholed or stereotyped, we have to stand up for the word and wrangle in the terminology so that it can’t be so horribly manipulated. This is where I disagree with both Sam Harris and Dan Dennett, the former proposing we don’t use the term atheist or atheism and the latter offering an alternative terminology in its place. Neither seems to work in lieu of the ubiquity of religious beliefs. Moreover, the religious would be free to pigeonhole atheists if we didn’t take back the right to define atheism with regard to the atheist’s position and understanding of what it means to be an atheist—which is something I personally find unacceptable.

Supernatural Reasoning vs. Rational Naturalism
Having discussed why the term atheism is necessary, we now can turn toward analyzing how the term comes about in the first place. By what right can atheists claim the term atheism means what it means?

Let’s try to think of it from another angle. Atheists don’t claim that the existence of fairies is false, because we don’t need to, so there is no reason for A-fairy-ism. Fairies are, according to the literature, supernatural entities with magical properties. There is nothing in the real natural world to suggest fairies exist, so we simply do not believe they exist. If proof became available today that fairies were real then the existence of fairies would be verified, and so belief in fairies would become justifiable. If this were the case we would not offhandedly dismiss little ole Tinker Bell’s existence (we’d probably want to ask her on a date).

As such, it is safe to assume that no well grounded rationalist believes in the existence of magical fairies. It’s not that we reject the truth “Fairyism” thereby stating it’s false, rather, “Fairyism” is invalid because it is untestable, unverifiable, and does not correlate with the nature of reality as we know it, and so cannot be believed.

Unchecked flights of imagination aside, no matter how many people may think fairies exist or how badly they want Tinker Bell to be real, the truth is that it takes faith to believe in any of it. At this point, only the most delusional and misinformed individuals could believe in fairies contrary to what the evidence says. This is why it is so easy to trick children into believing that Santa Clause is real. They have little to no real world experience, much of their perceived world is simply the mind design working out via inference the difficult to fathom attributes of a complex reality, and therefore children are entirely gullible when an authority figure, such as an adult or a parent, tells them that Santa Clause is real. Presents at Xmas time miraculously appearing under the Christmas tree seem to be valid enough proof, and so children can buy into the delusion that much easier. Not only this, but parents deliberately misinform their children as to Santa’s whereabouts, not to mention his levitating sleigh with magical flying reindeer and chimney spelunking abilities, as to keep the fantastic farce going. If nobody ever told the child that Santa was not real, then the child would undoubtedly continue to believe in it--the delusion is maintained--until of course someone tells them otherwise. Inevitably, a brother or sister, a friend, a classmate, or the parents themselves reveal the truth and the jig is up. It goes without saying that kids who do not receive Christmas presents or have the illusion of Santa maintained by their immediate culture do not likely believe in the Santa myth (after living six years in Japan, a culture where the Santa clause story is only viewed as a holiday practice in Western societies, I can verify this for a fact).

The problem with religious belief arises in the fact that religious institutions have been largely designed to block out this sort of doubt and skepticism. Religion safeguards the God delusion by making it so its parishioners never have to face the cold hard facts of reality—they never have to grow up—they can keep living in Never Never Land forever.

If there was real world evidence for the existence for God, and it was testable, and then corroborated numerous times by independent sources, then atheists may be more inclined to change their minds. We’re not stubbornly defiant of the truth, we want the truth.

The fact is however, there is no testable or demonstrable evidence for the existence of God. We atheists don’t find it a false concept; we find it an erroneous one. Therefore, we reject metaphysical supernatural claims for the same REASON we reject theist claims. They lack in support, do not stand the test of scrutiny, therefore are not trustworthy, and so cannot simply be assumed.

Yes, atheists do in fact reject the supernatural. This doesn’t mean we can’t be duped by our senses into thinking supernaturally. This brings us to the realm of psychology, and modern psychology along with anthropology and neuroscience justifies a naturalistic worldview and so lends positive support for atheism (see HERE).

Is Atheism Predicated and Mutually Dependent on Naturalism?
One may wonder whether there is a distinction to be made between atheist and naturalistic atheist, i.e. an atheist who subscribes to naturalist philosophies. I, for one, do not believe so. For me they are one and the same. Please allow me to briefly illustrate why I think so.

If you are an atheist, you can begin by asking yourself, why don’t you believe in God? If you’re an atheist and haven’t yet asked yourself that, then one might conclude that you’re a rather confused atheist.

At any rate, I am assuming that most atheists have asked themselves this at one time or another, and if you’re an atheist, I am guessing your answer will be standard atheistic response. I can’t speak for everyone, but I would posit a standard atheist’s response would resemble this, basically that because there is no genuine or reliable evidence for the existence of God, we just can’t infer from the natural world that God is at all real. Something that lacks in support cannot tacitly be assumed. For that reason as an atheist, we feel we are within our right to reject the idea of God. I think most atheists would agree with me up to this point.

What I’d like to ask is: how is this not a naturalistic position? Do we not arrive at our atheism through the same naturalistic means? I think that, all considered, we find that we do.

Hypothetically speaking, I guess it could be possible for an atheist to be raised by secular parents with no concept of God from day one, and presuming they never questioned their beliefs (however unlikely), there may be such a thing as atheism apart from naturalism. But then how do they differentiate between the supernatural claims of religions if they can’t ground their position in naturalism?

There are those who were raised in secular societies that do not hold a belief in any particular God or gods that are not opposed to theism, but these people hardly are ever called atheists. They are called non-believers or free thinkers, and mainly exist in predominantly secularized cultures.

Atheism entails an awareness of theism. In order to reach the atheist’s conclusion one must traverse the logic of naturalistic philosophy. If you reject naturalistic philosophy, then in so doing, you are opening yourself up to any interpretation no matter how unfounded, including supernatural claims. However, this would mean then that God could not be rejected for the reasons which justify atheism with regard to its understanding of the natural world. Naturalists, however, often reject God for the same reason. Consequently, the majority of naturalists are atheists as well.

So coming back to the question of whether or not atheism is predicated and mutually dependent on Naturalism, the answer is, yes.

Knowing what atheism entails, what it means, and how we arrive at an acceptable definition of atheism, I see no need to retract my statement that atheism is derived from juxtaposing the theistic “truth” claims with the real natural world and considering the implications—leads us to dismiss those claims based on naturalistic reasons. Therefore atheism depends on naturalism in order to take the contrary position to theism, which means that naturalistic atheism and atheism proper are one and the same.

One possible objection may be that I’m conflating the terminology. Alone they are separate meanings, as Naturalsim is a philosophy, but atheism is the lack of a theistic belief system. I am aware of the difference, but we’re not talking about two separate things with regards to this question, we’re talking about atheism—not naturalism. Atheism is anchored to naturalistic philosophy because without a naturalistic philosophy we couldn’t properly define atheism apart from theism in the first place. It becomes clear when we objectively ask, how could we prove that atheism is not dependent on the natural world? If it was completely independent of reality, then our concept of atheism could be anything, it would be at the mercy of our subjective whim.

Nevertheless, this doesn’t change the fact that the two terms are interrelated and so atheism is dependent on the reality of the natural world and so inseparable from naturalism. If not, then atheism alone cannot be validated because it could not appeal to the natural world for support. In fact, atheism independent of naturalism would be thinly veiled deism. Therefore we know that naturalism and atheism are codependent with regards to the theistic claims. As such atheism is derived from natural philosophies and natural philosophies in turn lend credence to atheism.

Atheism properly defined can only be derived at via a naturalistic understanding of the real tangible world. If I’m wrong about this, I sure would like to know. But I don’t think I am. I have investigated my beliefs in depth, and I find no other explanation which can pass muster. I hope other atheists find this explication of atheism beneficially agreeable.

Advocatus Atheist

Advocatus Atheist