Positive Atheism's
Frequently Asked Questions

1a. "If There Is No God, Why Have An Organization To Prove There Is No God?" [1]

Response by Cliff Walker

1b. "You Seem To Have A Lot Of Anger And Intolerance And Devotion For Something Which You Claim Does Not Exist."

Response by Matt Edwards

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Positive Atheism's
Frequently Asked Questions

2. "It Takes Much More Faith Not To Believe In God Than It Does To Believe In God." [8]

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Positive Atheism's
Frequently Asked Questions

3. "Life Would Certainly Be Depressing And Meaningless If There Was No Hereafter." [19]

Response by Cliff Walker

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Positive Atheism's
Frequently Asked Questions

4. "You Are On Our Prayer List. We Will Pray For You Always."[32]

Response by Cliff Walker

Your practice of a superstitious ritual will not harm us one whit.

However, we are curious and must ask, why? Why do you do this? What do you expect to accomplish? And please explain to us how it works. We have never understood how a person can, simply by thinking or talking, effect situations beyond one's physical reach.

Also, we insist on knowing why you would go so far as to inform us of your activity? Do you, by telling us this, intend to communicate to us that you think you are in some way superior to us in that you feel you must not only pray for us, but announce to us that you are doing this?

We agree with the Jesus character in the Gospel According to Matthew, Chapter 6, who allegedly said:

 

[5] And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
[6] But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

 

We feel that activities such as superstitious ritual -- along with other vices such as masturbation, recreational drug use, and the discussion of racist sentiments -- are best done in private where they will not bother innocent bystanders who might be offended by such activities. My editorial column "Prayer As Intrusive Outburst" explains why this is our position.

That you would announce that you are praying for us, in the context in which you did, implies that we need something that we lack (because we're atheists) and therefore implies a claim of superiority. You are welcome to try to spin it how you will, but this is the implication of telling an atheist (about which one knows nothing else) that one is praying for them.

Had you known, for example, that I had taken ill, but did not know that I am an atheist, such an announcement, cloaked in the context of failing health, would be understandable. Had you known that I was ill and that I was an atheist, I would be tempted to call such an announcement thoughtless or perhaps even rude. My only hesitation is that atheists are such a widely and viciously despised minority in the United States and elsewhere that we cannot expect the common etiquette manuals to discuss doing such things as saying "Bless you" to an atheist who has just sneezed or telling an atheist "I'll pray for you" -- or worse, "Why don't you pray about it?" [33] However, even though it's not in the books, yet, it is only common courtesy, and I don't see how this particular courtesy could be anything but intuitive.

But the context of my web presence is as an atheistic activist, and I can assume that you know nothing more about me than my atheism. Thus, whether or not you've thought this through, when you tell an atheist that you are praying for him or her, and it is clear that all you know about that person is the fact that they are an atheist, you are implying some form of superiority over that person.

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Positive Atheism's
Frequently Asked Questions

5. "Why Feature Historical Writings Of People Who Were Not Atheists?"

A. It was a capital crime to criticize Christianity or espouse atheism in Europe, from the beginning of the Christian Church in the fourth century until well into the Enlightenment. Therefore, those who were atheists during these fifteen centuries or so either did not write their views down, or their views were burned -- along with the author.

Atheism was not an intellectually viable position until Darwin disposed of the Argument from Design in 1859, with his publication of Origin of Species.

An atheist before Darwin could have said, following Hume: "I have no explanation for complex biological design. All I know is that God isn't a good explanation, so we must wait and hope that somebody comes up with a better one." I can't help feeling that such a position, though logically sound, would have left one feeling pretty unsatisfied, and that although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.
-- Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker, p. 6

Some pre-Darwin writers, though they spoke of "God," had viewpoints that were otherwise essentially indistinguishable from modern atheism. An example of such a thinker would Spinoza, whose views are difficult to categorize:

Scholars continue to debate the question of whether Spinoza was really an atheist; and if this debate seems incapable of resolution, this is partially because the key term "atheist" is rarely used in a clear and consistent manner. The question "Was Spinoza really an atheist?" can be interpreted in (at least) three different ways. If we apply the label "atheist" only to writers who never employ theistic terminology, then Spinoza was not an atheist in this superficial sense. If, by "atheist," we mean a thinker who explicitly disbelieves in any personal, transcendent, or supernatural God, then Spinoza was indeed an atheist. If however, we mean "Did Spinoza view himself as an atheist?" then the issue becomes far more problematic.
    -- George H. Smith, Why Atheism? pp. 198-9

Positive Atheism Magazine thus follows the cue of George H. Smith in his book Why Atheism? by encouraging our atheistic readers to study their heritage as atheists. This heritage includes those writers and thinkers whose ideas either encouraged breaks from Orthodox dogma or developed ideas which eventually led to modern atheism.

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Notes:

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