Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Atheism Without Theism?

A while back, I was engaged in a conversation with a theist who kept trying to get me to acknowledge that atheists maintain that the billions of people throughout all of human history who believe in God were all wrong. This was obviously poorly veiled argumentum ad populum and I refused to play his game according to his rules. Instead, I kept pointing out that the majority of theists also maintain that the billions of people throughout all of human history who believe in God were all wrong, since they worship the wrong God, or belong to the wrong religion, sect, denomination, etc. Every time he tried to argue that there must be something to this whole God belief if everybody accepted it except for a small percentage of atheists, I pointed out that every single theist was also part of a small group of people who disagreed with everybody else, so there’s nothing special about atheists rejecting all other beliefs as invalid.

Well, after going back and forth like this for awhile, getting more and more frustrated at my unwillingness to play his game and concede his point, he finally said something that just made my jaw drop in amazement:
What other people believe has nothing to do with the question asked. Deflection to what theists believe is nothing more than a rationalization. You don't base your atheism on what theists believe, do you?


I mean, I know that theists like to claim that atheism is its own belief system and all, but this is just ridiculous. Of course atheists base their atheism on what theists believe. That’s the whole point! Atheism literally means “not theism” and is nothing more, nor less, than a reaction to and rejection of what theists assert to be true. Theists say, “There is a God” and atheists respond, “I don’t believe you.” If no theist ever talked about God in the first place, there would be no such thing as atheists. How can atheist know what it is that we don’t believe in unless somebody else first tells us about it? Can you disbelieve in Santa Claus or Elves or the Loch Ness Monster if nobody has first told you what they are?

I dunno. I’m used to theists constantly trying to shift the burden of proof to make their arguments seem less irrational (“Atheists can’t prove that God doesn’t exist, so their belief in no God is just as faith-based as our belief in God”). And I’m used to theists constantly trying to portray atheism as some sort of “belief system” instead of simply a lack of belief. But it never occurred to me that somebody would actually complain that atheists dare to define their lack of belief according to what other people believe in.

What a world.

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