I Want the Word “Atheist” Back, Antitheists!

Lawrence KraussAs the days go on and atheists make me more and more annoyed, I’ve begun to wonder if I shouldn’t call myself something else. It’s kind of annoying, because I feel like this is my turf and they’ve taken it over. A great many atheists are former theists who have “seen the light.” But I was never a theist. It always seemed absurd to me. But as a result, I think I am much less combative about it. I don’t much care. There are all kinds of people with all kinds of stupid ideas. Is religion worse on that account? I don’t think so.

The common atheist claim is that religion teaches irrationality. But humans hardly need any help. Everything I’ve read about neurology indicates that most of our ideas about “choosing” and “deciding” are just clever lies we tell to ourselves to continue our fantasy that we aren’t just very big chemistry based machines. But the idea that all religions are irrational is just nonsense. There’s even a word, fideism, which means “reliance on faith rather than reason in pursuit of religious truth.” The fact that most atheists don’t know this word is indicative of their own special blend of ignorance and arrogance.

My problem is that I’m starting to think that the atheist community is becoming kind of dangerous in itself. I recently read a comment on another blog where someone said that he was rational and that was why he was an atheist. And more recently, Lawrence Krauss wrote an article, All Scientists Should Be Militant Atheists. In it, he said that in science “the very word ‘sacred’ is profane.” This is because everything is open to question. But he shows he either doesn’t know what the word “sacred” means or he too has a sense of the sacred. How can such smart people be so ignorant?

Here is a short interview clip with David Mitchell talking about atheism. Not surprisingly, people tend to think that he’s an atheist. I think he makes one very good point. He goes after the idea that religion has caused a lot of killing. “Humans have killed humans in the name of anything… Humans just like to kill each other.” I know some atheists will respond, “Yeah, but Muslims kill while quoting from the Quran!” Which sounds good, but doesn’t counter the argument.

On the other hand, Mitchell calls himself an agnostic, in part, because, “I do want there to be an all powerful benevolent God.” And that to me makes no sense whatsoever. You might want it, but clearly we don’t have it. If this universe has a God, it is at best indifferent. So Mitchell can’t seriously be suggesting that he thinks he might be wrong about that God. If he were, he would have to fundamentally change his definition of “benevolent.”

But I do find myself much more in Mitchell’s camp than Krauss’. And I think when you really get down to it, both Mitchell and I are atheists. No one knows for sure — you can’t prove a negative — Russell’s teapot, and all. But I’m as certain of a lack of an Abrahamic kind of God as I am of anything in my life. And I suspect that Mitchell is the same. So here’s my idea: we get the term “atheists” and Krauss and all the New Atheists can have the term antitheists.[1] That would make the most sense. Because I think they are giving us true atheists a really bad name.


[1] I know: antitheism is a different kind of thing. But it isn’t the atheism I have a problem with. It is all the antitheistic rhetoric that goes along with it. I still want my word back.

2 thoughts on “I Want the Word “Atheist” Back, Antitheists!

  1. Take baseball players. They believe the most wackadoodle imaginable. I’m aware of one whose jersey number is 33 and thinks he always has to stop his microwave on 33 seconds. Humans are good at pattern recognition and overdo it; that’s our thing.

    • Yeah, this is really at the base of all my yammering about the New Atheists: we aren’t as rational as we think we are. For a group that prides itself on following science, you would think they would know this. That kind of superstition is harmless. My mother was that way. And it wasn’t that she believed it. It was just that she figured, “Couldn’t hurt.”

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