Some time ago I was browsing web and I found this short comic on the topic of atheism.
While I was slightly amused by an awkward position to which this christian couple was put to, knockout that author intended to show is however certainly not as sharp as it appears.
One of the roots of the problem around the question “Who is an atheist?” is it’s very definition. We should not continue to solve this issue without first defining the word atheist.
According to Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary atheist is: “one who believes that there is no deity.”
Thesaurus: “someone who denies the existence of god.”
American Atheists (self-definition): “Atheism is the lack of belief in a deity, which implies that nothing exists but natural phenomena (matter), that thought is a property or function of matter, and that death irreversibly and totally terminates individual organic units. This definition means that there are no forces, phenomena, or entities which exist outside of or apart from physical nature, or which transcend nature, or are “super” natural, nor can there be. Humankind is on its own.”
Other: “the doctrine or belief that there is no God.”
This meaning of the word “atheist” is in its root of origin very similar to the word “atypical”. For in both cases we only added letter “a” in front of the original word. a-theist / a-typical, which changed the value of the word to its opposite meaning.
Reading the comic with these definitions in mind, we are one step closer in seeing why is it just a nonsense, rather than a witty blow to Christians.
Mathematically speaking: If Jeremy says that he believes, that 349*825 is 287925 then you have three basic options to choose from.
- Check his claim whether what he is saying is true. After doing your math you can either come to the same conclusion and agree with him. (Christian – theist)
- or come to a different one and disagree with him while having or at least assuming a different result. (Muslim – theist)
- Disagree with him while saying that a result does not exist (dividing by zero is impossible) (Atheist)
We see that in the example above, not everyone can be right, we can all be wrong, but we can’t all be right. Here all three options represent position, standpoint, belief or opinion which has or ought to have a value in for one who is seeking the truth.
Therefore when a Theist says that an Atheist has a belief (faith) that there is no God, he holds a valid standpoint. However when an Atheist is trying to do the same, by pointing at the fact that a Christian (Theist 1) does not share the same view (does not have a belief in the same God) as Muslim (Theist 2) therefore he has 2 beliefs or holds 2 opinions, he is simply committing the usual “non sequitur” fallacy (conclusion does not follow from the premises).
Surely it logically follows, when a person believes that 2+2=4 he believes not that 2+2=5. Yet the second is not a belief by itself, but only a logical necessity following from the primary belief. This cannot be said about a belief that 2+2 has no true result, for this is the primary belief in itself and all the other (2+2=4 or 2+2=5) “disbeliefs” are thus logically necessary.
However, today we can find other, new definitions of the word atheist such as “the absence of belief in any gods.” or “disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings.” This position is also called a “weak atheism” and is often called also agnostic atheism. For it is very similar (if not the same) to a view called agnosticism that holds no commitment to any opinion whatsoever, perhaps only that the ultimate reality is unknown and probably unknowable (Merriam Webster).
Now, having this definition in mind I guess we in fact do have a fourth option and that is to say: “I do not know and probably I don’t even care.” This is surely a position, however at this point it seems that any further discussion is unnecessary. At least until one truly opens himself to the sort of questions, which has been sought to be answered by the many generations before us, namely: “How did it all start? What is our purpose? Where are we heading?…” To find the best possible explanation is one way to do it, which does not commit anyone to the inevitable verity of his conclusions only proposes rationality behind them over the reasonableness of its rival hypothesis.