Archive for July 7th, 2009

In Defense of Atheism

Last week Josh offered a pretty sound criticism of agnosticism, but neglected to mention the elephant in the room: atheism. Part of the reason agnosticism is such a popular position, as Josh says, is that “atheism” is still a dirty word: Atheists are dogmatic, unreasonable, and extreme. These perceptions, however, are based on several popular myths about atheism. Atheism properly understood is not only reasonable, but, in fact, the only reasonable religious position.          

Myth #1: Atheists believe there is no god. This myth is largely the result of syntactical sloppiness. I, too, used to get tricked up by the difference between, “I don’t believe in any god” and, “I believe there is no god.” I thought that atheism meant the latter, which I was unwilling to support.

But this is an unfair standard. Atheism is not a belief, but the absence of a belief. Just look at the etymology: Theism means, “belief in a god” and the prefix a means without. If you are “without belief,” then you are an atheist. Continue reading