Tuesday, June 3, 2008

What is an atheist?

Atheist- one who does not believe in a deity.

A lot of people hear the word atheist and have a negative knee-jerk reaction. They think of god-less and soul-less heathens with no morals. I can almost hear the negative tone: How can you even imagine that god does not exist? How do you know what is right and wrong? How did we get here? If there is no god, then what is our purpose in life?

It always confuses me because, for one, I consider myself a good person. I dont steal. I dont cheat. I work hard. I am very well-educated and well-read. I love the people around me and work hard to become a better person. The atheists I know all generally fall into the same category.

My personal definition of an atheist is a person who rejects the supernatural. That includes god(s), angels, demons, 'hellhounds', djinns and ghosts. (and leprechauns, santa claus, the easter bunny, etc.) Atheists also tend to be rationalists, which means they seek a rational, logical explanation for basing their particular worldview.

Atheism itself is NOT a dogma. It is NOT a religion. There are no rules to follow to be a proper atheist. That does not mean atheists have no moral code. If there were a universal atheistic moral code I suppose it would be something along the lines of "I shall seek to cause no harm to fellow humans, accept responsibilty if/when I do cause harm and attempt to diminish human suffering." Atheism is something of a secular philosophy of life that does not invoke or require supernatural agents.

I am not writing this blog to try to convert anyone to atheism, I am writing this blog for several reasons: to express my opinions about the various intersections between religion, society, politics, science and morality and to start conversations about issues concerning those subjects. The other motivation for writing this blog is that, despite the 'new atheist' movement of the 21st century, the opinions of the minority atheist community are conspicuously absent. This blog is my attempt to contribute something to this movement which, if recent polls are any indication, is only growing.


Bayesian Bouffant, FCD said...

I noticed a picture of Westboro Baptist Church picketeers in your sidebar with this caption:
This was taken at the funeral of a dead (gay) veteran.

Westboro does not only picket the funerals of gay soldiers. They hold that the Iraq war is God's revenge on the USA for failing to discriminate enough against homosexuals. Thus, the sexual orientation of the soldier him/herself is not their focus. WBC has also picketed at some Ivy League campuses.

Bayesian Bouffant, FCD said...

The Black Carl Sagan

Sir Breeze said...

Its funny that out of all my friends I am the only proclaimed atheist. And yet I am the most moral of all my friends lol. I dont steal, I dont cheat, I dont lie, I dont have sex, I dont do any of the sins that "their bible instructs them to do" and yet they do it. But they all have a chance at salvation and I am damned to their gods hell for following his principles lol. But yeah I like your simple definition of atheism. We simply dont believe in supernatural of ANY KIND. Most people think atheist are devil worshipers which baffles me. If I dont believe in God why would I believe in the devil? Perplexed it doth cause me to be!

C. Wesley H. Crump said...

Great post. Simple, direct, to the point. I only "take issue" (not really) with one thing:

You said: "Atheism is something of a secular philosophy of life that does not invoke or require supernatural agents."

I would offer that Atheism is simply lack of a belief in the existence of a god or gods. The "secular philosophy" part is the definition of "Humanism", rather than atheism. One might argue, however, that atheism requires humanism :)

Not a big deal - just a possibly semantical point. Thought I'd pick on you since you're studying for your Ph.D at an Ivy League University and I'm jealous... :)

And oh yeah, I'm a black atheist too ("officially" for 11 years, de facto for approximately 10 years before that) - so now you've met another one. And I know two more!! We're growing.

I keep a blog here too if you ever want to check me out. http://oneblackatheist.blogspot.com/
It's not ALWAYS about atheism, but it often is.