44 thoughts on “Neil deGrasse Tyson on not being an atheist

  1. I posted the video to the Facebook page of the Oklahoma Atheists (I live in Oklahoma City). Most of them were raised in conservative Christian churches, and it shows in their atheism. My comment:

    I’ve spent a lot of time drinking beer with scientists (e.g., there was a period of a couple years when I met with biology professors for “Liquidus” on Fridays), and I’ve never heard one bring up atheism. Although most respond that they’re atheists when asked, they steer clear of the topic because (1) it doesn’t interest them and (2) it’s a can of worms. Most scientists are genuinely irreligious, and Neil’s remarks are typical. Please consider that breaking away from religion does not make you psychologically irreligious. Many of you adopt science as a surrogate for religion, and persist in believing that the truth will save the world. This externalization stands in the way of acknowledging your own religiosity, and working to free yourself of it.

    Like Neil, I am not in the business of telling people what to think. I want to help people find their ways, which almost certainly will not be the way I am finding. The family members with whom I am closest are conservative Christians. (Those of you who groan have descended into gross dehumanization.) The best I can do is to help them and others, including the atheists, rationalists, and skeptics who make ridiculous claims about science and reason, arrive at self-consistent beliefs.

    I oppose scientism on both sides of the culture war. Bill Dembski knows that, and once asked at UD why he didn’t see me dogging the atheists. When I named my blog “Bounded Science,” I intended to speak at times to scientism in general. But writing is hell for me, given my ADHD-PI. And I learned that Massimo Pigliucci does a fabulous job of addressing scientism and irrational “rationalism.” So I’ve directed my trickle of posts at the ID creationists.

    I don’t want to suggest that I hold the two camps in equal esteem. There’s a world of difference between honest errors and dishonest ones. All of the ID creationists are to some degree liars for god. At the very least, they lie that they are doing science, when they know that they are engaged in apologetics. And they lie when they claim that evolutionary biology derives from commitment to an ideology. They know that four of the five theories Darwin laid out in the Origin gained wide acceptance when most scientists were Christian. (Funny how the Darwin-worshipers rejected the “theory of use and disuse.”) They gain credence among Christian conservatives by arguing that evolutionary biology is the result of, and is preserved by, human sin.

    All of this gets mighty personal when I can tell that my relatives suspect that I am trying to lead them into sin. It is I who wants to help them to a better understanding of both science and what is essential to their faith, and it is the creationist idolators of science who seek to displace faith-as-such with bullshit “reasons to believe.” I am driven more by love for particular Christians than by a desire to defend science education.

    I can find no concept to go with the word god. Some mystics utter the word in response to subjective experience that is incommunicable and non-conceptual. They exhibit much greater care in their language than do most people who argue about the existence of god(s). What I hear about “god” is generally “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

  2. Tom:

    Please consider that breaking away from religion does not make you psychologically irreligious. Many of you adopt science as a surrogate for religion, and persist in believing that the truth will save the world. This externalization stands in the way of acknowledging your own religiosity, and working to free yourself of it.

    Maybe I’m behind the curve, but I’ve never thought about “religious atheists” quite like this before.  Very interesting and could be useful mental tool.  Thanks for the insight.

    I also had a look at Neil’s link to criticism of the video.  There’s a lot of anger there and little understanding of why deGrasse Tyson won’t let himself be used as an atheist poster boy.

  3. I’d regard my intellectual position as pretty close to Tyson’s. But I don’t shy away from the term “atheist” – I consider it a stronger expression of not-believing than ‘agnostic’, and if we have two words, they might as well have distinct meanings (which of course they do, despite overlap). I would not join an Atheist club or political movement. But I am a small-a atheist. Given that there are theists, I’m not part of that set.

    I’m not agnostic on (for example) chemiosmotic phosphorylation vs the superseded chemical intermediate hypothesis – I have adopted a position. If something forces me to revise that position, I will. Similarly, I have adopted a position on the existence of that set of causes which we could package as The Divine.

    Tyson is right when he says that people derive a whole host of assumptions about you from that one simple label. But many will anyway, simply from the position one takes on science. One of the most annoying habits of the religious opponent is to insist that one is incapable of an honest attempt at objective consideration and evaluation – one is in the grip of ideological materialism; atheism is a religion; blah de blah. A ripe Anglo-Saxon dismissal is ever in the mind, though only rarely delivered. 

  4. Well, I think some people regard “agnostic” as equivalent to  “weak atheist” (“there is no evidence for god or gods”)  and “atheist” as in “strong atheist” (“there is evidence for there being no gods”).

    Although even that distinction isn’t as huge as it looks at first sight, IMO.

    There is lots of evidence that specific gods do not exist.  But to claim that some as yet unspecified god does not exist you’d need a specification, and I’m not sure that the onus is on the strong atheist to provide one.

    I mostly agree with Tyson, except that, being a born contrarian, I’d call myself either a strong atheist (in the sense I think there is good evidence against all gods for which most people would claim existence) or a theist/pantheist (there is something I am happy to call “God” for which I think there is good evidence).

  5. I consider myself to be a militant agnostic. “I don’t know and you don’t either.”

  6. All ANYONE should be interested in is the REALITY behind our existence because there is only ONE and it matters to us what that is.

  7. Note:  it’s not that deGrasse disagrees with anti-theistic atheists; as he says, he just doesn’t have the energy to involve himself in their work.  Basically, he’s letting the militant atheists do the heavy lifting so he doesn’t have to take any of the hits, and lets him swim around in his subtle sense of superiority.

    There’s a culture war going on. I can at least respect those that take a side, even if it’s not mine. I have zero respect for deGrasserlanders who want to remain neutral.

    Nothing like the smell of equivocation and plausible deniability in the morning.

  8. William wrote:

    Nothing like the smell of equivocation and plausible deniability in the morning.

     

    Equivocation means changing the sense in which you are using an argument half way through in an attempt to mislead.

    deGrasse Tyson is not “equivocating”.  He’s doing exactly the reverse – he’s explaining exactly what his position is, and giving it the label “agnostic” .  That may or may not be an appropriate label, but it’s perfectly unambiguous in his usage because he tells us exactly what he means. 

    It’s got nothing to do with “plausible deniability” – all he is “denying” is that he holds the position that there is no God.   He merely does not hold the position that there is one.

    What on earth is wrong with not taking a side on this issue?

    Why should he?  Are we all expected to take a side on everything?  Leprechauns?  Homeopathy? Global Warming? Vitamin C?

  9. Yeah, me too, but I don’t mind people using words in a non-standard way if they explain exactly what they mean!

    At least my toes curl a little less.

  10. William:

    Note:  it’s not that deGrasse disagrees with anti-theistic atheists; as he says, he just doesn’t have the energy to involve himself in their work.

    I thinks it’s clear that deGrasse Tyson has no interest in the culture war.  Why does that lead to “zero respect” from you?  I’m sure there are lots of people in the world with no interest in the culture war.  Do you also have no respect for them either?

    That you view the culture war as being of central, critical importance in society explains a lot about your points of view here and elsewhere.

     

  11. After watching the video, I think Tyson could most accurately describe himself as a non-militant atheist.

    As for people who don’t play golf, we do have a word for them — it’s ‘non-golfer’, a coinage very similar to ‘a-theist’.    If society considered the golfer/non-golfer distinction to be important, then ‘non-golfer’ would have lost its hyphen as ‘atheist’ has.  If golfing were considered essential to a virtuous life, and non-golfers regarded with suspicion as immoral and unfit to hold public office, then non-golfers would be gathering, strategizing and decrying the social dominance of golfism.

    Supposing for the sake of argument that Tyson does not golf, would he be reluctant to identify himself as a ‘non-golfer’?  Would he label himself a ‘golfnostic’?

  12. William J Murray,

    William J Murray:There’s a culture war going on. I can at least respect those that take a side, even if it’s not mine. I have zero respect for deGrasserlanders who want to remain neutral.

    It’s a war only from those that hold the particular point of view, that only their viewpoint  is valid.

    When two people knock on my door on a Saturday or Sunday, it will be theists trying to convert me to their “preferred form of theism” but it has never, ever, been atheists trying to make me into one of the “non-theists”.

    This war will stop when theists gain the courage to realize, that they just might be wrong.

    At that point, they’ll let the rest of us think for ourselves and we’ll all be able to “just get along”.

     

  13. Prof X Gumby wrote:

    That you view the culture war as being of central, critical importance in society explains a lot about your points of view here and elsewhere.

     

    Depends on which culture war.  Like many scientists who are also communicators, he’s fighting the culture war of CP Snow’s Two Cultures, I think.  Or maybe better, not fighting it but attempting to bridge the divide.

    Labels like “atheist” don’t always help.

  14. Elizabeth said:

    Equivocation means changing the sense in which you are using an argument half way through in an attempt to mislead.

    No, it doesn’t. 

    From dictionary.com:

    the use of equivocal  or ambiguous expressions, especially in order to mislead or hedge; prevarication.

    Where equivocal means:

    1. allowing the possibility of several different meanings, as a word or phrase, especially with intent to deceive or misguide; susceptible of double interpretation; deliberately ambiguous: anequivocalanswer.
     

    2. of doubtful nature or character; questionable; dubious; suspicious: aliensofequivocalloyalty.
     

    3. of uncertain significance; not determined: an equivocal attitude.

    And at Merriam-Webster, equivocation means:

    1: to use equivocal language especially with intent to deceive

    2: to avoid committing oneself in what one says

    Where equivocal means:

    a : subject to two or more interpretations and usually used to mislead or confuse <an equivocal statement> b : uncertain as an indication or sign <equivocal evidence>

    Of course, the materialist/atheist position is one of necessary, liberal use of such equivocation (such as: free will as a deterministic proximal cause, and purpose as the result of chance causes, etc.) throughout their belief system and arguments. Equivocation, misrepresentation and obfuscation is the order of the day, as deGrasse’s long ode to plausible deniability indicates. Next, he’ll be challenging what the definition of “is” is, for those that ask if he “is” an atheist.

    Perhaps he should lead off with the position that he exists in a state of hyperspatial overlays where he both is, and is not, an atheist at the same time and in the same way.

    Hehehe.

     

  15. If someone asks, I’ll state that I don’t happen to believe in God, at least in any sense of a being with agency remotely similar to our own (the most frequently asserted sort of deity). That strikes me as a quaintly ludicrous projection – like clams believing in a God with a shells and a foot. I also have zero expectation than anything of my personality (or yours) will persist after death. And it seems to me that coping with the reality of death is the driving issue behind the choices one makes vis God – yet is often omitted from abstract debates vis the reality of God.

    So far as I can tell, “the evidence” is completely silent on the existence of a deity (although it obviously contradicts may specific religious tenets, including projected agency), and, as a matter of flat fact, appears to equally admit the projection of both belief and non-belief (although that silence seems to work more against than for belief). I does seem to me that an eyes-open appreciation of what a human being is (a biological organism) excludes the possibility of persistence of personality after death. But that’s just my take on it; a quick rejoinder is that my eyes are closed, and that were I to open them I would see the spiritual reality of both God and the persistence of souls after death. In either event, I’m content to go to my grave as things stand. 

    All that said, the universe so utterly dwarfs our tiny and fleeting existences (we stand in the same relationship to it that microscopic waterborne larvae stand in relation to the Pacific Ocean) and so exceeds the carrying capacity of the most magnificent brain-pan, that I find it equally ludicrous that anyone confidently claims to “know” these things, one way or another. 

    So, am I an atheist? Agnostic? Apatheist? 

     

  16. The only atheistic materialists I have respect for are those philosophers of renown that relentlessly examined the necessary ramifications of that outlook to where it inevitably led, and accepted it without attempts to equivocate or obfuscate.  That’s why I respect philosophers like Redbeard,  Heidegger and Nietzsch – even if I am on the other side of the culture war than they were.

    At least they understood the ramifications of their views.  Atheists/materialists today mostly just parrot logically incoherent but popularly effective tropes, without bothering (or being able) to understand the consequences.

  17. Translation: “Nothing like the smell of blood to inflame the passions of war.”

     

    It is perfectly understandable why Neil deGrasse Tyson would take the unequivocal position he does.  He is a public figure involved in a formal and legitimate responsibility for educating the public about science.  He needs to get on with it and not have to drag around bunch of culture war hangers-on attempting to ride on his celebrity.

     

    William J Murray’s kvetching about Tyson’s position is a perfect illustration of the fact that the US Constitution means absolutely nothing to the militant fundamentalists in this country.  It is not enough for them that they have the freedom to worship as they please in own their churches; they have to demonize the rest of society and use it as an excuse to meddle in the affairs of others.  One can actually watch this process taking place on the religion channels on television here in the US.

     

    William J Murray has zero tolerance for those not wanting to waste their time in sectarian warfare.  He actually says so.  That is what fundamentalist preachers say on television.  The message Murray is sending is that sectarians are determined to label, demonize, and drag others into a fight.  People who are not religious, don’t care for labels, and don’t want to waste their energies in sectarian wars are going to be labeled, demonized, and attacked anyway.

     

    So nothing has changed with the fundamentalists.  They have been declaring war on the rest of society for well over a century, and they are determined to escalate that war using any paranoid means possible.

     

     

  18. Why not be honest? the culture war began with showing Galileo the instruments of torture. the culture war began to protect the religious priesthood from the consequences of people finding out that things are not as the priests have told them

    Nothing much has changed except the priests have lost a lot of earthly power, at least in the West.  There are, of course, regions of the world where intelligent Design is backed by law and power.

    I have zero sympathy for the religious side of this argument. Religion lost the intellectual war centuries ago, and it is hopefully losing the battle for political power.

    I have no illusions about what will happen outside the political arena.  A large percentage of people of all political persuasions apparently wish to believe in woo. They are free to do that. They can call it the Truth or anything they wish to call it, but not science. Science is methodically materialistic to its core. The methodology defines what science is.

    People know that science produces useful knowledge. they wan the medicine and gadgets that are the fruits of science. But some don’t want to acknowledge the source of the fruits. The tree metaphor is still with us.

  19. William, that is just silly.  Your definitions are not at odds with mine, and emphasise “the intent to deceive”.

    There is no “intent to deceive” where someone has given their operational definition.  How could there be?

    William wrote:

    Of course, the materialist/atheist position is one of necessary, liberal use of such equivocation (such as: free will as a deterministic proximal cause, and purpose as the result of chance causes, etc.) throughout their belief system and arguments. Equivocation, misrepresentation and obfuscation is the order of the day, as deGrasse’s long ode to plausible deniability indicates.

    No, it is not.  To redefine a word is not to “equivocate”, and nor is it, necessarily, to obfuscate.  Often it is to clarify.

    However, your post is a classic case of obfuscation – you cite verbless useages such as “purpose as the result of chance causes” without specifying the claim or the argument made. 

    As I explained on your own thread, there is no a priori reason to suppose that a purposeful agent can’t arise from non-purposeful mechanisms, or that function necessarily implicates purpose.

     

  20. William wrote:

    At least they understood the ramifications of their views.  Atheists/materialists today mostly just parrot logically incoherent but popularly effective tropes, without bothering (or being able) to understand the consequences.

    I’d like one example, please.

  21. I did find deGrasse’s fumbling, almost blathering attempt to wade through the part about “evidence” amusing, though, as if whether or not there is (enough) evidence for god is the primary arbiter of theism vs atheism.  Evidence has little to nothing to do with whether or not most people are theists or atheists, nor should it have much to do with it.

    The philosophical reasons one should be a theist, and should not be an atheist, far outweigh any argument about evidence.  DeGrasse’s casual treatment of the difference between atheism and theism as if it was nothing more, really, than what our favorite sport or TV shows might be is sufficient to mark where he actually stands.

     

     

  22. Sorry,  William, but evidence IS a philosophical notion, and it is the central key to this disagreement. For the atheist, evidence has EVERYTHING to do with whether or not to believe in what there’s no evidence for, and for the theist, evidence is the enemy because it implies the existence of a REASON to believe, which no theist can produce.

    But I seriously doubt anyone here is confused on this matter. Those who understand, respect, and apply evidence are on one side of the debate, and those who fear, avoid, and dismiss evidence are on the other. Unless they wish to cross the street, at which point even theists bow to evidence and look both ways.

    But theism simply cannot be defended unless evidence is (rather stupidly) discarded as having “little or nothing to do with” the fact that theists HAVE no evidence   

  23.  Which definition, Patrick? Whose standard, Elizabeth? Consider these senses of atheist in Wiktionary:

    1. (narrowly) A person who believes that no deities exist (especially, one who has no other religious belief).
    2. (broadly) A person who rejects belief that any deities exist (whether or not they believe that no deities exist).
    3. (loosely) A person who has no belief in any deities, including those with no concept of deities.

    You have to hold Tyson to loose usage, and deny him broad usage, in order to object to his distinction of atheism from agnosticism, i.e.,

    1. The view that absolute truth or ultimate certainty is unattainable, especially regarding knowledge not based on experience or perceivable phenomena.
    2. The view that the existence of God or of all deities is unknown, unknowable, unproven, or unprovable.
    3. Doubt, uncertainty, or scepticism regarding the existence of a God or of all deities.

    There is a big difference in what you get from lexicographers who primarily describe (and secondarily prescribe) how educated people use words, and those who think they can use logic to establish what words “really mean” or should mean.

    The crisp taxonomies come from people who draw battle lines and pitch big tents. They ignore inconvenient words like apatheism and ignosticism.

  24. Alrighty then- how does the atheist explain our existence? And what is the evidence that supports it?

      

  25. I have always associated atheism with the denial of the existence of God.

    I associate agnosticism with “I don’t know.” 

    Language has undertones and overtones. I perceive quite a difference between the two words.

  26. The language is more convoluted than you imply, I think. After all, those who believe all the gods have consolidated into one differ from those who believe in many (polytheists?), who differ from those who think there is a Boss God and the others are subservient, etc. Is a Christian an Atheist with respect to Zeus or Thor? Is it possible to believe in Allah but not the Christian God? Or are they the same thing?

    You need to set aside your Christian-polarized glasses and see a wider view. Even referring to the “existence of God” frames the discussion in unjustifiable ways. WHICH god? Why did you not specify? 

  27. How much would you bet that wjm’s “logically incoherent” is, fundamentally, a private code-phrase which translates to “something I disagree with”?

  28. Are you saying that he has another one to go with “materialist”?

  29. William Murray,

    The only atheistic materialists I have respect for are those philosophers of renown that relentlessly examined the necessary ramifications of that outlook to where it inevitably led, and accepted it without attempts to equivocate or obfuscate. That’s why I respect philosophers like Redbeard, Heidegger and Nietzsch – even if I am on the other side of the culture war than they were.

    I would say that to call Nietzsche and Heidegger materialists is flat-out crazy if it were not clear that, in your case, it is flat-out lazy. A big problem that contemporary atheists have with Nietzsche is that he predicted, and objected to, the rise of scientism. The awful thing about the ID movement is that, instead of trying to stop believers from drinking the Kool-Aid, it works to sweeten it with God. As Dembski wrote last week at BioLogos,

    Given that science is widely regarded as our most reliable universal form of knowledge, the failure of science to provide evidence of God, and in particular Darwin’s exclusion of design from biological origins, undercuts [the non-negotiable theological tenet that the "world reflects God’s glory, a fact that ought to be evident to humanity"].

    Nietzsche’s Zarathustra said to the people in the marketplace, “God is dead, and we have killed him.” The ID movement, simply by spreading garbage like that I just quoted, is killing God. Romans 1:20 is no defense.

    The central article of faith for most Christians is that God the Son became flesh, and that God the Father made a blood sacrifice of the Son to atone for the sins of humankind. In 1 Corinthians 1, Paul acknowledges the unreasonableness (“foolishness”) of this belief:

    For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:

    “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

    Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

    Paul asserts in the beginning and the end that those whom God has called, unlike others, regard the message of Christ crucified as the power and the wisdom of God. How does God do the calling, and how do those who have responded know what they know? By the Holy Spirit moving within them, of course. That is utterly conventional theology, and you don’t have to read much of the letter to get it directly from Paul.

    It is not scientific evidence (“signs”) and reason (“wisdom”) by which Christians believe. I said above that IDCists are idolators of science, and I’ll add now that they worship their own intellects. How ironic it is that I go straight to the matter of salvation, here at The Skeptical Zone, while Dembski mentions it only in passing at BioLogos. (And how funny it is that, when arguing that you’re a bad Christian if you accept evolutionary theory, he refers to a book he coauthored with Jonathan Wells, who believes that Christ returned as the Reverend Moon.)

  30. Sorry,  William, but evidence IS a philosophical notion, and it is the central key to this disagreement.

    No, I agree with you. Evidence is, ultimately, a philosophical concept. However, I realize I’m talking mostly to (broad-sense) materialists who believe that “evidence” is something other than a philosophical concept (largely because they are blind to the fact that their de facto consensual-empiricist-materialism is itself a philosophical position).

    My point is that what the C-E-M position calls “evidence” is itself largely irrelevant to whether or not one should adopt a grounding in theism or atheism, because the two positions carry with themt far-reaching, deep and profound implications across one’s existence. To dismiss it as a trivial choice one can set aside and ignore belies the atheistic choice already made in order to have the kind of cavalier attitude about whether or not god exists – also, it displays a profound lack of  examination about those ramifications.

  31. IOW, saying “there is no evidence of god” is really a seriously ignorant, unsupportable and unexamined statement to make.  First, of course there is.  Unless one summarily dismisses all evidence for god as non-evidence on an a priori basis, the best one can say is that they find the evidence unconvincing.  Second, the devastating logical, ontological, and epistemological implications that flow from atheism are, in themselves, reason to adopt theism even if , in fact, there is no god.

    As I’ve said before, it is necessary to believe some things whether they are true or not, because to not believe those things is devastating philosophically, existentially and ultimately in every practical sense.

  32. I said above that IDCists are idolators of science, and I’ll add now that they worship their own intellects.

    Hey I didn’t know Richard Dawkins is an IDCist.. 

  33. IOW, saying “there is no evidence of god” is really a seriously ignorant, unsupportable and unexamined statement to make.  First, of course there is.  Unless one summarily dismisses all evidence for god as non-evidence on an a priori basis, the best one can say is that they find the evidence unconvincing.  Second, the devastating logical, ontological, and epistemological implications that flow from atheism are, in themselves, reason to adopt theism even if , in fact, there is no god.

    As I’ve said before, it is necessary to believe some things whether they are true or not, because to not believe those things is devastating philosophically, existentially and ultimately in every practical sense.

    And yet we poor benighted souls continue to live rich and fulfilled lives, undevastated by the  “logical, ontological, and epistemological implications that [you think] flow from atheism”. So of course if we don’t adopt this course, to believe in that which we find essentially unbelievable … well, we must be morons – or at best blinded by a priori de facto consensual-empiricist-materialist-slap-a-label-and-see-if-it-sticks-mystico-balhoogery. Anyone with any sense can SEE that there is a spiritual realm. And even if they can’t, anyone with any sense can SEE how much better it is to pretend they can. Ergo…

  34. The philosophical reasons one should be a theist, and should not be an atheist, far outweigh any argument about evidence.

    Only for those who hold your particular philosophy as valid William. Fortunately most folks don’t find your brand of navel gazing particularly practical.

  35. Tom,

    “Which definition, Patrick?”

    Petrushka,

    “I have always associated atheism with the denial of the existence of God.  I associate agnosticism with ‘I don’t know.’”

    Over a number of years, the only definitions that I’ve found to be coherent and descriptive of the positions actually held by real people are those in the diagram I referenced above.

    “Atheist” is perfectly understandable from its roots “without belief in a god or gods.”  I have never personally met any atheists who claim categorically that no gods exist.  The majority I know simply see no evidence for such an hypothesis.  If someone were to provide me with such evidence, I would change my view.  By this definition, Neil deGrasse Tyson is an atheist.

    Note that this definition is the most clear and distinctive of those provided by various dictionaries.  One either believes in a god or gods or one does not.  If one does not, one is an atheist.

    “Agnostic” is a more difficult word because it has evolved more in common usage than has “atheist.”  From its roots it clearly refers to knowledge rather than belief, hence my preference for the usage in the referenced diagram.  As both of you point out, however, there is a sense in which it is used to mean a weak form of atheism.  Frankly, I find this usage, especially when self-applied, to be more indicative of a desire to avoid the label “atheist” than to describe an actual viewpoint.  As Dawkins points out “There may be fairies at the bottom of the garden. There is no evidence for it, but you can’t prove that there aren’t any, so shouldn’t we be agnostic with respect to fairies?”

    If you don’t have a positive belief in the existence of a god or gods, you are an atheist.  There is no other word that makes exactly that essential distinction.
     

  36. WJM: “That’s why I respect philosophers like Redbeard,  Heidegger and Nietzsch – even if I am on the other side of the culture war than they were.

    At least they understood the ramifications of their views.”

    Ramifications? What are these, William? What are the horrors that we should see in societies with very low levels of theism and religious practice (Sweden, France, for example) that we don’t see in societies with very high levels of theism (Nigeria, the Philippines, Pakistan, for example)?

    Perhaps the trouble with your personal philosophy of believing what you want to believe is that it ends up giving you views that don’t relate to the real world. 

Leave a Reply