It’s atheism, not Atheism
17 December 2018
I’m an agnostic, otherwise known as a fence-sitter. I don’t believe in any god, but that doesn’t mean one can’t exist. To say with complete conviction either way, that a ‘creator’ must exist or couldn’t possibly, seems to me like arrogance.
However, if I had to choose a side, I’d probably fall into the atheist camp. I even used to call myself one. My beliefs weren’t any different from what they are now. The change of label occurred only when atheism began its move to ‘New Atheism.’
These are the people who don’t believe in God and don’t want you to either.
My original liking for atheism came from a kind of ‘live and let live’ attitude that I derived from it. As as far as I knew, atheists weren’t in the business of conversion. Unlike what a Christian might do with Christianity, we weren’t going to foist our worldview onto others.
Being someone who is a big advocate for freedom, I saw atheism as the ultimate response to stringent religion and morality, belief systems where the questioning of one aspect means the denunciation of all of it. If someone wanted to free themselves from an organised religion, losing their belief in its most central figure was a good start. But if you wanted to continue believing, that was fine too.
Atheism means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. At its core, it is the belief in disbelief, a lack of faith in the God or gods that dominate cultures all around the globe. The word, ‘atheism’, unlike ‘Catholicism’ or ‘Buddhism’, isn’t capitalised, because it’s not a proper noun.
The term doesn’t describe a specific set of people or even an ideology. Indeed, atheism is at its best when its the opposite of religion—unorganised and unconcerned with what others have faith in. But that’s just not true anymore.
Nowadays, atheism is a movement, a community, and akin to a religion. Militant Atheists are the evangelicals of this world. They don’t just abstain from religion; they attack and criticise it. If patriotism is loving your country, and nationalism is hating everyone else’s, New Atheists are more nationalistic than patriotic.
At first glance, there should be nothing wrong with debating and scrutinising an ideology. I’m all for the free and open evaluation of ideas and concepts. We live in a democracy, and that’s what we do. However, when it comes to the topic of religion, a certain level of tact is required.
Respect is imperative, as a lack of it reflects poorly on every non-believer, especially now that they are all classed as being a part of a movement. A great number of myths already surround atheists, one of them being that they’re actively working to destroy religion, religion being something that is incredibly important to a great number of people.
Really, I don’t see the point in trying to debate people out of their well-entrenched ideas. You can certainly argue for things like the separation of religious and scientific education, but arguing against a religious worldview itself is basically futile. At the end of Bill Nye’s debate with Ken Ham, Ham ultimately conceded that no amount of evidence would change his mind.
There’s not much logical about creationism, but that doesn’t matter. If you’ve been raised to believe in anything, you’ll fight to uphold those instilled beliefs.
Another problem I have with the MO of New Atheists is their insistence that they are on the side of science. Firstly, it’s not like all scientists are non-believers themselves, as a Pew Research survey showed that 51% of American scientists have some kind of faith in a higher power. That’s less than the average population, although still enough to lower the veracity of the New Atheists’ assertion.
Secondly, atheism itself is not founded on scientific principle. Science is about drawing conclusions from facts, and ‘God does not exist’ is not a fact. The lack of scientific evidence for God does not equal complete scientific proof against God.
New Atheists are at fault for their numerous, baseless assumptions. For example, religious violence and extremism are terrible, but to say that violence would cease to be without religion ignores the very idea that humans are predisposed to violence. In other words, humans will always find an excuse to kill each other.
To say the ‘world is better off without religion’ ignores all the good that such institutions of faith provide us, be it the fact that in the United States (one of the most charitable nations in the world) the most generous households are in deeply religious regions of the country, or that on a personal level, religion can offer lost people the moral groundwork on which they can rebuild their lives.
Militant Atheism is everything atheism shouldn’t be. This new movement has turned a lack of belief into a staunch, on-the-offensive ideology, and as they shout louder and louder, fewer and fewer people will be inclined to listen.