[ExI] Atheism

Dan TheBookMan danust2012 at gmail.com
Fri Aug 10 19:35:35 UTC 2018

On Aug 6, 2018, at 10:23 PM, Giulio Prisco <giulio at gmail.com> wrote:
> I can agree that most people who commit atrocities aren't motivated by
> ideology, but by "other reasons, usually to do with gaining and
> holding on to power over other people," But you can say this about
> everyone, including nazis and violent religious fundamentalists.
> Atheism IS a belief system when it becomes militant and intolerant.
> Let's agree to disagree.

Negative atheism is the absence of a belief, so it’s not really a belief system. Compare it with stuff you have sheer ignorance over — say, the characters in my as yet unpublished novel. I wouldn’t call your likely previous state of not even knowing about my novel let alone being unaware of its characters having a positive belief about it and them much less holding a belief system about it and them.

Positive atheism is the belief that there’s no god or gods, but that’s not a belief system either. Sure it can be nested inside a belief system, such as a set of other beliefs that justify positive atheism. But the belief itself is not the whole system. And this is how atheists can vary a lot. For instance, different atheists can have different reasons for disbelieving in god(s).

The same applies to theism. And this is more the correct level to compare these fairly abstract terms. Now, there are a range of theist systems, but theism simpliciter is merely the belief in god(s).

The issue here you’re debating would be more about what moral and political views are capitals with atheism or theism or with particular systems coupled with atheism or theism. And one can ask questions like what do atheists typically believe about, say, harming people for political ends. Though a problem here is going to be how well that generalizes and whether it’s showing a strong relation. (Observe: many on the Right in the US argue that Islam leads to violence. And there’s no shortage of cases of violent Muslims in the news. But the overwhelming majority of Muslims seem to be as peaceful as non-Muslim theists adjusting for other factors. Atheists actually seem to be less violent as a class now than others — or that’s my guess based on religious affiliations of violent criminals.)


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