Or so seems to be a growing opinion in that internet/New atheist community. I’ve heard this multiple times in the past month compared to maybe twice over the previous 5 years. Here’s one example from a Twitter interaction (yes, I know I’m a troll; we all need our outlets):
So this is obviously dumb as fuck (if you think otherwise please just leave now), but I actually think I understand how it came about. The main thing to pay attention to is how New Atheism has become more on more focused on the idea that atheism is some sort of self-report. The popularity of the ‘lack of belief’ definition – that atheism commits to nothing at all – speaks to this. Let me point out right away that this is not to say that atheism is about something other than a person’s position.
What is wrong with this definition is that (1) it eliminates agnosticism as a category, (2) it is a rhetorical trick to avoid having to argue for one’s opinions, (3) tied into the previous, it completely misrepresents the actual position the individual holds, and (4) discussions about atheism/theism do not center around someone’s personal description – nobody cares; it’s about which position we should hold and why we should hold it.
If you disagree on (1), click the link. “Agnostic atheists” will try and get around this by saying agnosticism is about knowledge and atheism about belief, but this is a whole other region of confusion. If you disagree on (3) ask yourself the following question: how is it remotely coherent to say belief in God is irrational, God is a delusion, smart people believe through emotional manipulation, and so on yet claim you merely ‘lack belief’ in God? Give me a break – hence (2). (4) Should be self-evident through any reflection on an actual religious debate or, hell, a debate on any topic. Nobody gives a shit that you believe 9/11 was an inside job, we care about what we should believe. That’s the whole point of a debate. I seriously do not comprehend the concept of (presumably) thinking you have good reasons for your position yet playing all kinds of rhetorical games to avoid having to give or defend your reasons.
But! But! When you have put so much effort in turning the conversation away from defending your beliefs, through definition stipulation of ‘atheism,’ it makes total sense that whether your beliefs are true or not would detach from the word. They’ve somehow managed to put the focus so strongly one the personal (lack of) opinion that one holds, on the word being used as a label, that the truth of that opinion is not relevant – it’s just about whether or not one holds it (remember, this is about it not having anything to do with; the term does pick out individuals). This sort of confusion would be, hopefully, impossible if they had stuck the the use that is common among the general public and academics – disbelief in the existence of God, because that is clearly a positive position on something’s existence. Apparently turning it into a passive lacking of belief has made certain types of people forget that non-belief actual deals with facts about the world.
This is the best I can do. I think I can follow the train of thought that led people here, but the whole thing is so totally baffling that I can only make an educated guess. I should point out that I spend way too much of my time (ie any amount) in these online communities, and I regularly interact with their members. Places I post and/or read comments in: /r/debatereligion, /r/debateanatheist, /r/debateachristian, /r/trueatheism, /r/atheism. On top of that the general over saturation of New Atheists on Reddit as a whole has the shit showing up everywhere. Even /r/vegan. Nothing is safe. Anyways, the point I’m making is I am not some outside observer talking out of my ass. I would also like to note that plenty of these people, though philosophically illiterate anti-intellectuals, nonetheless are not so far off this planet to think atheism has nothing to do with God’s existence.
Concluding whine about ‘lack of belief’
This is mockingly referred to as shoe atheism because shoes also lack belief in the existence of God. So do rocks. And babies. Trees. It should be a red flag that your position on something is (supposedly) identical to that of a rock. Or any other entity that isn’t capable of holding beliefs in the first place. They will of course complain (actually, plenty accept that shoes/babies/rocks are atheists; this world is a truly mind-boggling place) that they mean people, but that’s a totally arbitrary move to feel more comfortable in something so patently silly.
What would I have to get mad about without Reddit atheism? Maybe I’d do something productive. Like catch up with my summer reading quota rather than write bitchy blog posts. Oh well lol xD