What I Don't Like About
Religion And Atheism
Jacob Steele

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Jacob Steele"
Subject: Re: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Tuesday, December 14, 1999 4:31 AM

An atheist is simply someone who lacks a god belief -- for whatever reason. This is the definition which the majority of atheistic philosophers have favored, according to George H. Smith, according to his articles "Defining Atheism" and "The Scope of Atheism."

Most atheists are very seldom aware that they're atheists until you point it out to them or until an evangelist tries to convert them. Only a few atheists (such as myself) are acutely aware that we are atheists. Most atheists would say, "Yeah, I guess you could call me an atheist, if that's what an atheist is."

The atheism we advocate does not try to convert theists to atheism. Our atheism does stand firm for the dignity of atheists and of the atheistic position. It vigilantly opposes any intrusion of religion upon public life (particularly government endorsement of religion and laws which are based wholly upon the tenets of one or more religions).

We also encourage challenging false claims made in public, such as a recent claim made for acupuncture made in "Parade" Magazine, which described a woman undergoing open heart surgery without the benefit of a heart-lung machine. Correspondent Kevin Courcey pointed out that with a gaping hole in the chest cavity, the patient could not generate the changes in air pressure necessary to take a breath - thus the absolute need for a heart-lung machine.

While we cannot disprove a broad, existential claims such as "A God exists," we can call to question some specific claims, such as the claim that a woman underwent open heart surgery without a heart-lung machine. This latter claim is easily shown to be false, and casts doubt on similar claims made for acupuncture (although it by no means refutes the entire acupuncture school of thought, much of which does not make claims like the open-heart surgery claim discussed by Courcey).

As for agnosticism, we prefer the view that one is either a theist (has a god belief) or is not a theist (is an atheist). Thus, agnosticism protrudes into both categories: theistic agnostics think there is "something" out there (or within) but can say no more than that; atheistic agnostics do not know if there is a god or any higher power out there (or within) and thus lack a god belief.

I rest firmly within the center of the atheistic camp. I have considered hundreds of god-claims, and have found none of them to be very convincing. I lack a god belief, although I still listen to people's claims, and still consider them. Some atheists know for a fact that there is no such thing as a god (and I will go this far when it comes to specific gods, such as Jehovah, Allah, Jesus, and others). Those who assert that there are no gods and who will not listen to god claims, are, to me, being dogmatic and are flirting with disaster by bordering on fundamentalism.

So, then, atheism includes a whole spectrum of views about theism, ranging from "I don't know if there is a god" to "I know for certain that there are no gods" with the healthy middle including "I have yet to encounter a god claim that convinces me" and "Only occasionally do I even think upon the subject." The ideal, to me, is "God? What's a 'God'?" The one thing that all atheists have in common is that they lack theism - they lack a belief in a god or gods (and usually also lack a belief in the supernatural).

Finally, atheism is but one element in anybody's outlook or world view. Atheism is never the entire outlook (I would hope) and is seldom even the most conspicuous or even the most significant element in one's world view.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

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