Posts Tagged 'Secularism'

Atheism and Secularism

Atheism is simply a lack of belief in any gods, and the fact that atheism in it of itself is a nonbelief has its advantages and disadvantages. Unlike religious people, atheists don’t automatically have any positive beliefs in common. This is an advantage in that good atheists cannot legitimately be linked to the bad actions of bad atheists (though there have been plenty of attempts to link them illegitimately). An atheist criminal must have at some point constructed a positive belief justifying his actions, and this belief is by necessity not atheism. On the other hand, religious criminals will often justify their actions through an interpretation of their religious teachings. Others who hold those teachings to be true must answer to the fact that, at the bare minimum, some number of their positive beliefs are shared by criminals.

But identifying with a group that shares only a negative belief has its disadvantages as well. It’s very difficult to organize around what you don’t believe in, and while it would be nice not to have to organize, the disciplined spread of misinformation about atheists by religious groups leaves the atheists at a disadvantage. Faced with this, atheists must organize or continue to accept their role as social outcasts. And while the onslaught of religious oppression against atheists creates temporary cause for unity, uniting around no more than what we don’t believe will lead to disunity later on. While that is not necessarily a bad thing, I think that we the people who don’t believe in gods should aim higher to create lasting change.

One way to do that is to adjust our message. We need to build a coalition that includes not only atheists but non-atheistic agnostics and deists, and the way to do that is by focusing on a more important question than simply whether or not gods exist: are gods or supernatural forces the driving forces in our lives? Atheists can easily answer no to this question since they have no belief in gods to begin with, but agnostics and deists, who in some cases are resentful of the invasive nature of religion, may find common ground with atheists and unite to create changes which benefit us all. We need to promote the concept of secularism, that regardless of whether or not gods exist, our lives should run on the basis of input from the natural world and our interactions with other people. Although this is a positive belief and thus not necessarily associated with atheism, it is something most atheists can agree with.

I am both an atheist and a secularist. In a way, atheism resembles a “sect” of secularism, with agnostics and deists forming different sects. But if all secularists set aside their minor differences and work together, we can make the world a better place for secularists. And, if we accept that a world with less oppression and exclusion benefits us all, a better world for secularists is a better world for everyone.



I’m starting this blog as an outlet for my thoughts on religion, it successes, shortfalls, and how I get along without it. As an atheist and secularist, I often get accused of only believing in “cold logic”, to which I respond, “What’s so cold about it?" Just because I think critically where where religious people don’t doesn’t make me cold, immoral or unfeeling. I’m not anti-religious per se, though I feel some religious practices do get a free ride where they shouldn’t. The main reason I’m an atheist is that I think a life lived on secular priciples is a better way to live. In reading this, you’ll probably see plenty of ideas you’ve heard before, and hopefully a few you haven’t. With any luck, you’ll understand where I’m coming from, and we’ll both be better off.
The Out Campaign: Scarlet Letter of Atheism
(image: happy human)

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