Several months ago I came across a discussion wherein a (self-proclaimed) pastor had managed to start an argument amongst atheists by registering a complaint about atheists who claimed there were no gods. It took the atheists maybe a page or two, but they did forget the pastor. I don’t think more than one or two involved atheists realized the pastor never posted in that thread again. The thread went on for several pages until a moderator grew weary and locked it.
What happened? The theist misrepresented atheists by stating that atheists were “arrogant” and claimed to “know” there were no gods and we were no better than those mean ole fundamentalists. Some tried to correct him, but others just went with his claim about those big ole meanies called “positive atheists” giving atheism a bad name.
Why did this happen? I think it’s because atheists have messed up. We let theists define atheism and we are quick to chastise atheists that supposedly fit this definition. This is wrong.
Atheism is not a religion, a philosophy, a worldview or anything similar. It is not a positive assertion about theism or its various gods, devils and spooks. It does not address any subject but theism and it is nothing more than a negation of theism. Atheism does have subcategories, but these categories do not change the basic definition of atheism. To define atheism as anything but “the absence of theistic belief” is to define theism as “the belief in the existence of Kokopelli”. It is the lack of theism and nothing more.
This seemly insignificant definition is very important and I think it’s time we quit abetting theist attempts to change it. Unless the theist is successful in changing it, the theist cannot shift the burden of proof. When we allow them to do so we end up arguing about irrelevant things or arguing against each other while the theist runs away pretending they “won”.
While we must provide evidence to support our positive assertions (e.g., religion is destructive), it is ridiculous to expect evidence for atheism when it is defined properly. Kept on track, the theist has to make a reasonable case for theism. If they fail, atheism is the only logical position. Theists, of course, think this is unfair thus the attempts to change the definition of atheism.
When theists are denied the various tricks, there’s only one option left. That option has many manifestations but it is generally along the lines of “This is true because it makes my toes tingle, that’s all the evidence that’s needed and you’re a meanie for snorting like that”.
Most theists, especially American Christians, do not like having to admit this because it shows without doubt that theism is nothing more than irrational belief. By getting to this point, atheists show that theistic claims are no more worthy of consideration than those of a person claiming they have found the cure for AIDS because it makes them feel good to think they have found the cure for AIDS.
This was written about a year ago, so there’s no link for the mentioned thread. I decided to post this on my blog because of an argument I recently had with someone over what atheism means. These kind of arguments/discussions are not rare and I think it’s very important for atheists to quit letting theists control the discussion, be it by silence or by aide.