Saturday, November 9, 2013

Why I no longer call myself an Atheist

It has only been in very recent times that calling yourself an atheist has become a socially acceptable norm.

Atheists are no longer hunted down, tortured and killed by the multitudes of zealous believers in whatever deity/deities is/are flavour of the century at the time of their unbelief in him/it or them.

I have been proud to call myself an atheist ever since I read enough books to learn that that is definitely what I am in relation to the divine; an unbeliever.

So I am, when the question of theism comes up, definitely atheist. Not a theist which is the opposite. See how easily a simple tap of the space bar can completely change how you define yourself?

The problem I have with calling myself an atheist is that it is reactionary and negative. By saying I am an atheist what I am essentially doing is defining myself by my non-belief in god.

Think about this. If you are an atheist then you think that no god or gods exist. That means that saying ‘I am an atheist’ is like saying I am a person who doesn't believe in something that doesn't exist or I don’t believe in nothing.

You could compare it to saying, instead of, ‘I breathe air’, you say, ‘I don’t breathe a vacuum’.

I propose that those people who currently call themselves atheists, many of whom are much smarter than I am, you may be surprised to learn, stop defining yourselves by being anti-nothing and start defining yourselves are being pro-something.

I propose when asked the religion question, instead of saying ‘I am an atheist’ and waiting for the expression of shock and horror, confusion or fear, you say something like ‘I am a realist’. Then you might get to explain what that means.

For me, I think that we can only define our existence based on the accumulation of knowledge we, as a race, have managed to acquire. Human beings have fantastic imaginations, or so we think, and that is great, however anything that only exists in the human imagination has to be defined as ‘not real’.

If you can’t measure or observe it or do repeatable experiments on it to prove it is there, then the probability is that, well, it’s not there.

Gods, fairies, Pegasus, the Kraken etc have no evidence whatsoever to support them and therefore must be defined as not real.

The point I am trying to make is that ‘we’, as far atheists can be grouped together as we, should define ourselves by something that we are as opposed to something that we are not.

Something positive rather than something negative.

I live my life based on what we as a species, and I personally, currently understand about life, the universe and everything.

I don’t believe in god but I also don’t believe in many, many other things; even some vaguely scientific things, like the existence of wormholes or the possibility of time travel.

I don’t believe in homeopathy, astrology, Brian of Nazareth or the Lord of the Rings - as much as I would like to meet Gandalf, he’s not real, sorry to burst your bubble Ringolics - but that’s not how I want to be defined; by the many things I don’t believe in.Or one specific thing that I don't believe in, GOD. 

By saying I am an atheist I feel I am giving theists far too much credit. I am not defining myself in my own way, I am defining myself as not them. It makes me sound like a reactionary. It's theists who hold the wild unsubstantiated beliefs. I feel it should be them defining themselves as not us. If it didn't already mean something else then a good term would have been naturalist and then non-believers in the real world would be unnaturalists.

I want to be defined by the things I do believe in, like being excellent to each other and partying on, dudes!

So on those, actually fairly rare occasions, when I am asked about my religion, I plan to say what I am and not what I am not.

So even though the term that I propose is already in use to mean something similar, I think it could also come to mean a person living in the real, material world, as opposed to magical fairyland. Perhaps other, smarter atheists might come up with a better term but until then, here it is. 

I am a realist.