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There's no such thing as an Atheist Gospel, but we've had ChristianGospel and AztecGospel so I don't want to buck the trend ^_^ It's not that wild an idea, though, because while there may be no creed of atheism, it's my perception that most atheists today would agree on many points, despite having no (non-)holy book.
There are however many good books on atheism. "A Very Short Introduction to Atheism" is one. There are also many good books expounding a version of atheism.
There are different flavors ( "denominations" maybe ) of atheism. Here are some. Few people would fall squarely into one category :
Nihilism : Believing in nothing : i.e that nothing has any value, importance or purpose. Very few people place themselves in this category, and many atheists have fought against the threat of nihilism. Some say, however, that nihilism is in fact the logical conclusion of atheism and everyone else is just kidding themselves. This was the view that one of the CICCU Promise speakers held...
Existentialism : Not all existentialists are atheists, but all of the most well-known existentialist writers were. Existentialism was defined by Jean-Paul Sartre as the belief that "existence preceeds essence", i.e that human life has no intrinsic purpose, and if we want a meaning in life, we have to make it for ourselves. A lot of writing in this category focuses on emptyness, death, absurdity, boredom and simelar happy ideas. Existentialism was very influential in the mid-20th century.
Humanism : Belief in mankind. Generally secular humanists believe that human life should be based around human concerns rather than supernatural ones, and believe in the power of science to improve the world, the power of art to improve life, and human progress in general. Not to be confused with other meanings of the word "humanism".
Pantheism : Belief that the Universe (or Nature) is "God". Typically pantheists are identified as atheists because (mostly) they don't believe in a transcendent, personal god, such as the Christian god, or the existence of another spiritual reality. Rather, "God" is something in and underlying this world. The Creation is the Creator, and the Creation is divine. Einstein is often described as having been a pantheist. Arguably, some forms of Hinduism are pantheistic.
Apathism : Probably not a form of athiesm, probably not a form of religion at all. More a disinterest in the whole affair. Edith used to be one of these until CICCU came along and forced him to take sides. He longs to return to the sweet bliss of not caring or taking part in these discussions. Damn.
So what would they agree on? Broadly speaking, something like the list of points in Edith/OhBloodyHellIAmTalkingAboutReligion . Generally, except for nihilists, atheists would agree that while there is no god in the traditional sense, no life after death ( certainly not in the sense that the individual personality and memories survive death ) and no ultimate reward or punishment, this doesn't mean that there's no reason to keep living.
Why are people atheists? Bad reasons include :
They were brought up that way.
They were brought up religous, and reacted against that.
They've never really thought about the issue ( although some might say this is the most sensible thing to do... )
They don't like the way some religous people and organisations have acted over the years.
Possible good reasons put forward include :
They see no convincing evidence or arguments for the existence of a god, or the claims of religion (Skepticism)
They consider that the presence of pain and injustice in the world makes the existence of a loving god impossible.
They consider that an omnipotent creator god is a logical impossibility.
This might be more appropriately located in ChristianGospel, so feel free to move it. I am rather unqualified to say anything about AtheistGospel due to not technically being an atheist. However, I would point interested readers to an essay by Denys Turner called "How to be an atheist", (from a Christian perspective). I believe that his main point is that in order to deny theism, one needs to have a theism to deny. Denying certain sorts of theism is also a way of approaching God called the "via negativa". (That's horribly simplistic.) I heard the lecture, but didn't take notes. It's possible to find by googling for it. I have also found [this] by ++Rowan Williams to be extremely helpful. - AR
Interesting link. However, I feel Rev. Williams (is that the correct honorific?) is building up a straw man. What he is talking about isn't true atheism, it's antitheism - a conscious rejection of God. Atheism, on the other hand, could more realistically be classed as a lack of acceptance of God, in the same way that "immoral" and "amoral" are completely different concepts.
For example: " Thus when we try to consider and understand atheism of any kind, our first question has to be what it is about some particular piece of speech about God is causing trouble, and whether it is in fact essential to a religious traditionís understanding of what it means by God or the divine." He is very much starting from the assumption that the Christian worldview is the truth, and then seeing where it comes into conflict with the atheist worldview. Rev. Williams would be right that the resulting structure does not form a self-supporting system, but neither would Christianity if grafted onto atheism in this way. - CorkScrew
I don't think he's assuming Christianity is true, but he does seem to be assuming that it is the benchmark by which atheists define their position. I think this is partially true, but atheism has a lot of original ideas which are not inversions of theistic ones. Equally, Christianity has been and continues to be influenced by atheism ( either accepting atheist criticism, or reacting againt atheism ). No idea is an island. -- Xarak
CorkScrew wrote: What he is talking about isn't true atheism, it's antitheism - a conscious rejection of God. Atheism, on the other hand, could more realistically be classed as a lack of acceptance of God, in the same way that "immoral" and "amoral" are completely different concepts.
Umm? Surely the distinction which you label atheism/antitheism is conventionally in English known as agnosticism/atheism? I agree that it's semantically inconsistent, but this is the EnglishLanguage after all ;) Dictionary: atheism is clear that it's asserting there is no God, not just a "absence of making a statement about God". --AlexChurchill, who usually hates arguing definitions, but it's kinda necessary for communication sometimes
True. Atheists believe there are no gods, Agnostics believe it is impossible to tell one way or the other. I used to be an Agnostic until I was forced to take sides by some Christians who where trying to convert me. If you're not sure then they argue you should believe in God because you don't lose anything if God's not real and you are massively rewarded if they are right and God is real.--King DJ
Corkscrew's observation is not quite right. Anti-theism is active oppostition to the idea of a God, seeing a belief in any supernatural deity as a negative influence on humanity. Agnosticism is not be sure if there is a God ; Atheism is being sure there isn't. (And I'm sure you've all heard about the Agnostic Dyslexic Insomniac who used to lie awake at night, wondering if there's really a dog). --Threadgold?
Pantheism is new to me, thanks for that. I am one. --Threadgold?
It's even more muddled than that. One can be agnostic or even theist while denying that a specific definition of God is true. MoonShadow, for instance, is a norse-atheist - he's pretty convinced that no such thing as Thor really exists; yet he would hardly say no God exists!
(PeterTaylor) WADR, you seem to contradict yourself. The definition of agnostic you give (which definition I'd support) is a "side" in the sense of the following sentence. As to Pascal's Wager, that's a load of rubbish. Firstly, you can't just say "I believe X" and by doing so actually believe X. Secondly, Christian faith, as I've recently explained in another page, is trust in a person and not in a set of ideas. If you're not sure then by all means start attending a church and reading the Bible, and even praying, but that's not the same as believing.
The Christians argued that I should believe on the grounds that there was no absolute disproof of the existance of God and therfore I should believe otherwise I am putting my "immortal soul" at risk. If you disagree with their argument I have no problem what so ever with that. I agree entirely with your counter (to believe you have to do more than go through the motions) I also think that the whole thing is tantamount to spirtual blackmail.
I consider the highest probability that God or gods do not exist therefore I naturally support the atheists however each sides position is frequently (and often by definition) impossible to prove. My point is that if you say that you can't be sure in front of any believers they smell blood and go for the kill. I find telling them that I am an atheist gets across the point that I don't believe and could never be convinced to believe and so is a useful way to avoid their unwanted attentions.--King DJ
'I sometimes want to say to atheists, "Tell me about the God you don't believe in - odds are I don't believe in him either!"' --AlexChurchill, on Theology
The atheist counterpoint to this phrase is of course "Tell me why you don't believe in all the other Gods and I'll tell you why I don't believe in yours" --SF
Some atheists are anti-theists in that they take one idea of god and say 'you are wrong people, that god doesn't exist, stupid religion' and then there are atheists who look at the world and say 'random chance made this world happen, physical laws keep it going, there is no room for god'. Some atheists *define* as being notChristian or notMuslim or notJewish... some just don't see where any idea of god fits in. From a Christian perspective I could almost fit in under atheist - I most certainly don't believe in the allpresent allknowing god of the Jews, I don't think that the world has any space for such a being, nor do I think that we need the existence of such a being to understand the world. I do however believe in gods - very human gods who fight and shag and make humans have wars so they can watch, so I don't define myself as atheist. -- Naath
It seems some Christians have difficultly with the idea that people exist who don't believe in any god, gods, goddesses, ghosts, spirits, daemons or giant celestial pigeons. People have accused me of being an atheist as a reaction against Christianity. That simply isn't true. They can't seem to grasp the fact that on no level do I believe and I'm not just being contrary. To answer Alex's point the gods I don't believe in are by definition an infinite variety. I did have a rather odd conversation last night with someone who had the opposite problem. They could not understand how anyone, at any point in history, could possibly believe in the supernatural. They were convinced that all religion was metaphor and cultural code of conduct and that the adherents didn't believe in gods, they were merely following the required forms. It was quite difficult to get them to accept that some people do genuinely believe in God. I'm still not sure I was entirely successful.--King DJ
Ah, the "Yes Timmy, people really are that stupid" moment seems to be lacking. (A more reasonable argument would be that many people were just going through the motions.) --Vitenka
He and his parents are certainly going through the motions. He just doesn't/didn't seem to get that some people aren't.--King DJ
DR provides a link to [The alt.atheism FAQ] and notes that nobody has yet mentioned the distinction of a Theist being one who believes in the existence of a God / Gods / etc, an Atheist being one believes in the non-existence of God / Gods / etc, an Agnostic being one who neither believes nor disbelieves but thinks the question is open (and possibly unanswerable), while a Worshipper is one who not only believes that God / Gods / etc exist, but also that they should be followed / worshipped / are good / etc.
DR would say it is theoretically possible that Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, Double Decker Busses on the Moon driven by Elvis exist. (Cartesian Demons). In fact, since such a demon could fiddle with our thought and memory, it might turn out that PI=3. Or even that there are no such things as circles. None the less, anyone who rates the probability of any sort of self-conscious supernatural creator as being on the same level of probability as the Tooth Fairy, could probably be usefully termed an atheist.
DR points to a [TED Talk by Richard Dawkins] which includes a discussion of the merits (and distinctions between) various terms such as "atheist", "agnostic", "militant agnostic", "non theist", "teapot agnostic" and "tooth fairy agnostic". It did make me wonder whether a future NASA mission to Mars might contain a president ordered blackop to launch a teapot which could then be 'discovered'. For additional style points, it should be part of a silver teaset, monogrammed by one M. Barbicane I'm a little confused as to what part of this page except the title has anything to do with an AtheistGospel. --Admiral
Corkscrew's observation is not quite right. Anti-theism is active oppostition to the idea of a God, seeing a belief in any supernatural deity as a negative influence on humanity. Agnosticism is not be sure if there is a God ; Atheism is being sure there isn't. (And I'm sure you've all heard about the Agnostic Dyslexic Insomniac who used to lie awake at night, wondering if there's really a dog). --Threadgold??
This is a pretty spot-on description of anti-theism. I feel it should be noted that anti-theism does not necessarily imply atheism. For example, I am an agnostic anti-theist. I feel that religious groups abuse resources which could be used practically, and that religion as a whole does more harm than good.
Note that I don't presume to know whether there is a god. Either by design or because there was no such design, man is incapable of proving the existance of god. Combine this fact with occam's razor and you'll find yourself behaving as an atheist when you're really a practical rationalist. --hart
The "Why Am I An Atheist?" Table
Roll 1d10 1 Moral depravity 2 Rebellion 3 Superficiality (desire to please liberal professors) 4 Error 5 Poor relationship with father 6 Division in religion 7 Learned times, peace, and prosperity (allowing secular indoctrination. . .a good plague or disaster would solve the problem no doubt) 8 Negative experiences 9 Scientism 10 Pick any two! CategoryHeathenReligionMattersCategorySerious