Monday, January 17, 2011

Greetings! (A short introduction.)

Hello everyone!

First of all, if you are reading this, thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts, and I hope you enjoy them.

I am an atheist, albeit a young and curious one, and this blog will centered on my non-belief in a country where faith and religion permeate almost every aspect of culture.  Football players drop to their knees and thank God for giving his attention over to guiding their passes and tackles rather than spending a bit of time helping scientists in their fight against cancer.  Friends and relatives of the Chilean miners thank God for saving the miners rather than thanking the people who worked tirelessly to extract them safely.  Many people show kindness to fellow human beings only because they are given the incentive of heaven and the threat of hell- and these same people are the ones who say that atheists are not as moral as theists.  Countless billboards profess the truth of the Bible and the undeniable existence of God, and urge us to accept him- yet a billboard professing a lack of belief in God and a secularized worldview is an "attack" on God.

Well, I do believe I have made my point.  Belief in God is all around me (most likely around you as well), as well as 'faith'- my pet peeve.  Then there is me, an atheist, doing my best to connect with the 12% or so of America that also lacks a belief in God.  But what exactly is atheism?  What does it mean to be an atheist?  At least half the believers I have talked to have a profound misunderstanding of atheism, so let's define that right away.

An atheist is not the 'opposite' of a believer.  He does not hold a belief in no god in the way that a theist believes in god.  In the words of Matthew Dillahunty, host of The Atheist Experience (of which I'm a big fan), atheism is "a rejection of a belief".  By definition, it is not really possible to do good or evil in the name of atheism, or to 'believe' in atheism, or to attribute any sort of behavior to atheism.  This is because atheism is simply a term that indicates the lack of theism.  We can no more say that atheism was at fault for Stalin's crimes than we can, if presented with a man who has drowned at sea, pick out a particular life vest and say that its not being attached to him is the reason he drowned.  One could certainly argue that its presence may have helped the man, but it is certainly not the fault of any particular form of flotation device which happened not to be present that the man drowned.  I was recently rather disappointed when a very intelligent Catholic, who is many years my superior and who I very much enjoy talking with, referred to atheism as a "bad idea" online.  It is not the "bad" that I took issue with; although I don't agree, there wasn't anything terribly surprising about it.  It is the fact that he referred to atheism as an "idea", at which point, upon reading his comment, my first thought was, "atheism is not an idea, good or bad.  Theism is an idea, and atheism is a rejection of that idea."  It was not worded quite as coherently in my head, but thoughts seldom are.

So, in a nutshell, an atheist such as myself does not believe in no god.  You, I can safely say, do not have a specific belief in the nonexistence of leprechauns.  To do so, one would need to travel all the known universe, seeking out leprechauns.  Luckily, you do not need to embark on any sorts of dauntingly large quests for leprechauns, unicorns, etc.  This is because we do not need to disprove something's existence to lack belief in it; we'd still have a long way to go if we did.  The default position is skepticism- doubt rather than stubborn, blind belief.  If your default position is not skepticism, I'd ask you to take a look at the progress made by scientists in the past few hundred years; skepticism has been working out pretty well so far.

This is why, whenever a believer asks me why I do not believe in God, I say, "Why should I?"


  1. This whole "atheism =/= religion/idea" annoys me. Theism is an idea, but atheism isn't a "lack of an idea," it's simply a disagreement of it. An idea is "a personal view (" Atheism is a personal view; thus, it is an idea, it's a concept, it's a bunch of little abstract thoughts squished in our minds, what have you. As for "atheism is not a belief," definitions of belief ( and of atheism ( seem to state otherwise.
    Second, a fair reason to believe in God is that He is a plausible explanation for creation. Don't get me wrong, I'm not pulling a "WE DON'T KNOW HOW THIS WORKS CLEARLY GOD," (Insane Clown Posse would be proud) all I'm saying is that God is one possible (probable, if Occam's Razor has any weight) solution to the world around us.
    Finally, whether or not God directly interacts with how the Super Bowl goes is debated. I don't see evidence in the Bible (from my admittedly and ashamedly moderate knowledge) for this. Also, God, if we accept the premises for His existence, exists out of time (having always existed and never ceasing to exist); thus, time has no weight on Him. He can do an infinite number of tasks in a nonexistent space of time.

    I believe that's all for now. Cheers.

  2. As to your first point, atheism is not a "disagreement" by definition of the actual term; for it to be a disagreement, one generally has to hold a conflicting viewpoint. While a conflicting idea certainly is a logical continuation of atheism, it is not part of the actual lack of belief that atheism defines. One might say, "I don't believe in God, so I believe the universe has always existed without a prior cause", but the part that defines atheism is simply the conclusion that god does not exist; the belief that the universe has always existed is a personal conclusion. As for your definitions of atheism, there are two definitions presented: one is the belief in no god, and the other is a lack of belief in god. What they are defining with the first example is gnostic atheism; a much less widely held viewpoint that we can have absolute certainty in god's nonexistence. This is a belief because one crosses from neutrality to an actual claim ("God does not exist"). The second definition is the much more common form of atheism- agnostic atheism, which holds that because we cannot prove or disprove god's existence, but since we have no evidence for his existence, it is illogical to believe in him.
    To your second point, you'd need to define "plausible". Possible, yes; but there are many possible explanations. There is evidence out there now that shows why matter would exist regardless of whether any sort of omnipotent deity existed separate from the universe. If you have not done so yet, I'd recommend you watch Lawrence Krauss's lecture titled "A Universe From Nothing" ( It's highly worth the time. I'd also recommend (in a totally non-condescending way) that you look up Occam's Razor again; it makes the belief in god illogical by its standards, not plausible.
    Finally, I was quite aware that God exists outside time when I wrote that line; it was more meant as a figure of speech, and I believe the point I was making stays intact :) just reassuring you I'm not completely oblivious!


  3. Well done, Leo! Congratulations on your new blog, and I am looking forward to your continued presence online!

  4. Even through the two definitions of atheism, I fail to see how atheism is not both a belief and an idea. The definitions encompass the concept of atheism.
    Plausible might not have been the word I was looking for; I'm not interested in "weighing possibilities" because that really doesn't get us anywhere conclusive. Possible might be a better word. The point is, God is an explanation for what we see around us, at the very least through following the Bible, and that is why people choose to believe in Him.
    Third, through Occam's Razor and the cosmological argument (and the teleological argument), God appears to work just fine as a possible explanation.


  5. Leo, Please forgive me for being skeptical, I've listened to one of your radio broadcasts, and read some of your conversations on reddit, but has your dad, mom, or siblings acknowledged your change in belief on their own blogs or websites or in print somewhere? I'm afraid I don't live up in the Pennsy area and can't check this out for myself, but I'm curious, since I am also the editor of Leaving the Fold: Testimonies of Former Fundamentalists, and find the stories of people's journeys fascinating.

  6. Leo, If you're interested, there are eight books that I think might help clear your mind of any biblical cobwebs that might regather there. The list below was devised with the idea that even an Evangelical Christian might be able to start reading the books at the top before reaching the most skeptical ones at the bottom. I especially enjoyed reading two new books in particular, Stark's, The Human Faces of God, and White's, Scripting Jesus. Marvelous stuff!

  7. Leo, You might also wish to peruse the books on this amazon list, "Leaving Christianity & Leaving the Fold, Testimonies"

  8. Thanks for the links, John- I'm always looking for new reading material!

    My mother does have a blog, but I don't believe she has said anything about my lack of belief. The rest of the family doesn't do much in the way of writing online- except me, of course!

  9. Dude, your picture makes you look way too intellectual whereas mine is a cracked face and a cardboard robot (depending on which picture Google chooses to post, I believe). That's cheating. Also, if you have a stream of that broadcast I'd be interested to hear.

  10. You say faith is your pet peeve? Does it not take faith to be an atheist? But no, of course, as a skeptic, you do not need faith, correct? But is not a skeptic skeptical? You are very skeptical of everything; except atheism. How can one be a skeptic if he is not skeptical of everything?

    Does it not take faith to believe atheism to be true? For atheism is a belief, much like Christianity and Hinduism. How can that be so? Christianity and Hinduism are both religions! As is atheism. Even Charles Darwin believed evolution to have turned into a religion. "I was a young man with uninformed ideas. I threw out queries, suggestions, wondering all the time over everything; and to my astonishment the ideas took like wildfire. People made a religion of them." One's religion is one's belief system. One does not need a God to believe something. One does not need the supernatural to have faith. When you drive your car you have faith the brakes will not give out. While one may have evidence to back up the belief of a fully working vehicle, one cannot be 100% certain.
    If this logic is clear to you, you may say it takes less faith to be an atheist, as you have more evidence. I will get to that later.
    ~These are just some thoughts from a 17 year old girl~

  11. Well, you sound as if you do not quite understand atheism yet. It is not quite feasible to be skeptical of atheism; atheism itself is a form of skepticism, specifically skepticism towards deistic or theistic claims. However, I do see what you may perhaps be trying to say, which is that one must give a fair and equal amount of time to the arguments for God. I do assure you that I have given much thought to them; for a very long time, in fact, I heard nothing but arguments for God. I do try to keep a good balance between the two views to this day; if you or anyone else has any evidence for God, I will be happy to listen to it.

    Unfortunately, you are incorrect in calling atheism a belief- I'm afraid I already explained it to the best of my extent in the blog post above. Theism/Deism is a belief; atheism is simply the title for one who rejects that belief. As for atheism being a religion, you really must provide some sort of sound logical process by which you arrived at that conclusion. Here's what Merriam-Webster says about religion:

    "(1) : the service and worship of God or the supernatural (2) : commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance"

    I really do not know how one can get from a rejection of such beliefs to the belief. If religions were sports, for example, atheism would be not playing any sports.

    You also seem to have confused evolution with atheism... the two are not related. Evolution is a theory concerning the variation in species after abiogenesis; it really is not related to religion. Even if it was a belief system, religion is far from anything classified as a "belief system". Finally, you do not quite understand faith. Faith is certainty in the face of uncomfortable odds. I do not have faith that my car brakes will not give out; I am quite aware that there is a small chance that they may give out and I may die. I acknowledge this possibility and I admit that it exists. Faith is quite different; in the face of uncertainty, or unlikely odds, a person of faith will say that they simply know that their religion is true, or that they shall be saved, and so on. One without faith, such as myself, does not need it. I know the odds, and I acknowledge them. I need not try to fool myself with unfounded belief.

  12. @Aearon

    You don't seem to understand that the burden of proof is on the person who asserts the existence of a higher power, not on the person asking for proof of said assertion.