A while back my friend Dan sent me a link to the Evil Bible website. Now, normally, I tend to enjoy links to other atheist / non-believer websites, but the article in question – a four page litany about how atheism means “belief in no God” instead of a “lack of belief in a god” just sort of rubbed me the wrong way. Maybe it was an entire page devoted to supposedly “stupid arguments”, references to people who disagree with the author as “brain dead morons”, or another full of dictionary definitions telling us what we should all really consider ourselves instead of what we really are.
The whole thing just looked, as Dan said, like someone had an axe to grind … pretty heavily, I might add. I can’t get that upset about it, myself. I do think, though, that there is an understandable argument in there somewhere, since you normally don’t have a word for people who don’t engage in particular activities. You don’t have groups of non-baseball players, or non-stamp collectors. They’re just people who don’t happen to engage in certain things. I, for one, am a non-reality show watcher. And proud of it.
The problem arises when the rejection of a particular belief – especially one considered so integral to society – puts you at odds with the overwhelming majority of the human population. Then, no matter how silly it may seem, you’ve got yourself a label and you stand out because of it … all because you reject a claim that hasn’t met its burden of proof.
This, by the way, is why I prefer the term “non-believer” over “atheist”. The former simply states the position without the strong negative connotation of the latter. And, as the aforementioned website demonstrates, people can get wrapped up over the exact definition as if the simple rejection of belief doesn’t whittle down the population size by a rather large percentage.
On page 2 you’ll also see “Stupid Argument #6″ in which he author attempts to convince the reader that the rejection of a claim is identical to making a claim to the contrary, which is simply not true. For example:
Me: Hey, there’s life on Mars!
You: Really? Wow! I didn’t see anything on the news … how did you find out?
Me: I just know.
You: Wait, what? What about NASA and that probe they sent?
Me: Well, NASA hasn’t said anything, but I just know there is. I can feel it.
You: Well … that’s nice, but I think you’re just making shit up.
Me: Oh, so you’re saying life doesn’t exist on Mars then? How do you know?
You: I don’t. I’m not saying life does or doesn’t exist on Mars. It might; I’m just not buying into your story, that’s all. If we find fossils or bacteria or something, then we can talk.
It’s about as simple as that. Atheism is a position that makes no claim. It has no burden of proof. In its broadest sense, it’s a rejection of theistic claims that haven’t met their burden of proof. It allows for the possibility that a god or gods may exist, but there’s no compelling evidence to treat that possibility as anything more than a curiosity until more information is available.
The more you know!