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Disbelief Constitutes
Hatred Toward God?
Wes Jernigan

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From: "Positive Atheism Magazine"
Date: Saturday, November 01, 2003 (8:16am)
To: "Wes Jernigan"
Subject: Are Atheist Groups Rightly Seen As Hate Groups?

Hear! Hear!

Nevertheless, the "sheep" are not the only variety of Christian to hear this propaganda: many Christians do think critically. By popularizing a false definition of the term atheist, Christians (and others) have made it very easy to portray "atheists" as both intolerant and stupid: intolerant because the popular definition has us actively rejecting theistic ideas though most of us are just indifferent to religion, not caring one whit about the subject and rarely if ever thinking about it. This is why Positive Atheism Magazine has been so big on trying to popularize what we call the traditional definition of the term atheist, being, essentially, "anybody who is not a theist" (see "Who is an atheist?" below).

But you're right: and unless we popularize simple, catchy, and memorable counters to this propaganda, some who can and do think for themselves might go along with it. True, there's nothing to be done with the "sheep"-type Christian, the one who unthinkingly believes almost anything that the Evangelical Christian leadership tells them, who reflexively disregards as "lies" anything said by an atheist. But many Christians and others are wholly capable of thinking this way, and are thoroughly practiced in this style of thought.

However, thinking for oneself does not necessarily include coming up with original ideas. It is valid to choose from among several ideas one has heard. For this reason, we do well to develop some counters to what we keep hearing, and to popularize those ideas.

And theists aren't the only ones who do this: some of the most bitter opponents of self-proclaimed atheists on this Forum call themselves "agnostics." These portray the theist and the atheist as being equally dogmatic in their belief, respectively, in the existence of the monotheistic (Christian) deity and the nonexistence of said deity. (These agnostics are sometimes called "symmetrical agnostics," meaning that they consider the truth and falsehood of the Christian god-claim of relatively equal likelihood. On this Forum we've often called these "neo-Agnostics.")

Who is an atheist?

And if we define atheist in its widest sense, as "anyone who, for whatever reason, has no theistic beliefs," or, as I mentioned above, "anyone who is not a theist," then the notion of hating a fairy-tale god becomes absurd. The vast majority of the West's atheists, by this definition, rarely if ever think about religion (unless forced to by intrusive religionists).

Social critic Wendy Kaminer is a classic example:

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I don't spend much time thinking about whether God exists. I don't consider that a relevant question. It's unanswerable and irrelevant to my life, so I put it in the category of things I can't worry about.
     -- Wendy Kaminer, in Natalie Angier, The Bush Years: Confessions of a Lonely Atheist, New York Times Magazine (January 14, 2001)

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This is the kind of atheist my Father is, and my Mother as well; in fact, just about everybody in our immediate family was this way. This is how I was for most of my life, too. I did not call myself "an atheist" until 1988 when, standing in court, I objected to being sentenced to undergo religious instruction in a faith-based rehabilitation program.

And except for my work here, while sitting at this desk, I rarely if ever ponder the subjects of religion or atheism. Atheism, in fact, is a nonsubject, a big "nothing"! My atheism does not describe who I am; rather, it exemplifies who I am not.

Who am I? Usually, I'm an honest, somewhat compulsive, cordial man who prefers the company of his animals to that of most humans. In semi-retirement, I have settled on writing, copy editing, and social advocacy as my final career. Currently, however, I've had to spend most of my time and energy trying to recover from a death-defying bout with a baffling medical condition which, after two years, is only beginning to make sense (thus allowing me to attack it head on and at least have a glimmering hope of recovery).

That's who I am. Nothing about religion or atheism at all, not until you take a closer look at the "social advocacy" part. But even then, I've been a social advocate off and on since childhood, and full-time since 1985 or '86.

Thanks for your letter. Hope to hear from you again.

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Eight years of service to people
    with no reason to believe

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