Saturday, August 30, 2014

Here Is What Atheists Believe

One of the annoying things that religious people say to atheists is that we believe in nothing.  By this, of course, what they mean is that we have no values because, in their minds, values come from god.  In other words, it is little better than calling us psychopaths.  It is bigotry even if politely expressed.

It is also evidence of confused thinking or speaking if taken literally.  Literally, someone who believes in nothing is a nihilist, not an atheist.  If you choose, you can point this out to any religious person who says this sort of thing.  You will score a superficial point and it may well be worth the trouble to make this point quickly before moving on to the more important substance of the religious person's actual meaning.

In general, I find that religious people will invariably favor the emotional over the literal meaning of the things they say.  This is because they are fuzzy thinkers--not precise thinkers.  If you choose to point out the literal meaning of what they say, your response will be seen as mere nit-picking.  But, it will also usually make the religious person pause, and then probably agree with you regarding the literal meaning of the words.  (Though if the person is truly stupid, you may find that he or she doesn't even know what a nihilist is.)

This will give you an opening, if needed, to address the actual, bigoted meaning of what the person just said.  The most common response is to give the religious person a list of things in which atheists believe.  Many have put forth lists of the various things atheists believe.  A web search will turn up several, though most seem to be copied from the Murray v. Curlett decision quoting Madalyn Murray O'Hair

These lists are good, and I suggest reading them and maybe even coming up with your own list of values.  The problem with the lists is that they fail to address the core of the problem and fail to reveal why atheism is, at its core, the only moral religious philosophy.  (They also violate the soundbite rule--they won't register in the believer's mind.)

The one value that I think is central to atheism and which, I think, most atheists hold true even if they don't realize it is this:

Atheists believe in truth.

We believe in being honest with ourselves and the world.  Religious people don't.  They would rather say what is popular than what is true.  And, as I pointed out before, this is one of the reasons I say that atheists are more moral than religious people.  Because if you are not honest with yourself and the world, then no morals apply to you because you are implicitly reserving the right to lie.

Honesty is the core of atheism in my opinion.  We atheists don't pretend that we never make mistakes.  If we realize we have a belief that is false, we would rather admit it than engage in a face saving lie.  We would rather endure bigotry and scorn than take part in a lie, even a popular one.

Here is a brief list of atheist beliefs (in addition to honesty).  I believe:

1. We should love our fellow man instead of an imaginary god.

2. The needs of ourselves and others should be met by deeds and not by useless prayers.

3. This is the only life we will ever have.  Heaven is something we should strive to create here on earth.

4. We should strive for involvement and improvement in this life and not an escape into death.

5. We are each responsible for our own conduct.  No one can take our punishment for us.

6.  Only those we harm can forgive us for it.

7. We should do what is right regardless of reward or punishment.