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Addressing Common Misconceptions About Atheism

Robert Dimuro

Posted on October 28, 2018 20:05

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It’s very important to understand atheism, not only in order to have clear-minded debates and discussions, but also to understand the role it plays in our daily lives.

This week, I want to clear the air on the topic of atheism, as there seems to be a lot of confusion regarding what atheism actually is, and what atheism can and should be. Just as there are many ways to be religious, there are almost as many ways to be atheistic. Therefore, this article should be insightful for believers and non-believers alike.

One misconception about atheism in conversation or debate is that it’s just another belief system -- that is, “believing” that God doesn’t exist. I don’t think this is semantical; it denotes a certain equality when talking about atheism in the arena of religious faiths. Debates about Christianity vs. Judaism or Christianity vs. Islam are not the same as a debate about Christianity vs. atheism.

Atheism is not a belief system. It’s the unwillingness to accept the proposition that God exists without sufficient evidence. In this sense, atheism isn’t like a religion; it’s simply an objective statement about reality to which everyone adheres in their everyday lives.

The analogy of Russell’s teapot explains this well. Virtually nobody could believe the proposition that a teapot exists between Earth and Mars without supporting evidence. Moreover, no one expects those “non-believers” to prove that it doesn’t exist. The burden of proof is on whoever claims its existence to be his/her revealed faith. Why should claims about the supernatural and the divine be exceptions to this rule?

Another misconception about atheism is that it’s amoral since religious people believe morality is solely a product of a religious doctrine. Actually, morality can only be derived empirically as questions about morality always pertain to human experience in the present world, namely, our actions towards others and oneself.

There is even a whole philosophy created by Ayn Rand, objectivism, that clearly maps out a moral code that is based solely on reason and rational self-interest. Much more needs to be said about the relationship between religion and morality, perhaps for another article.

Many Christians in America love to argue that atheism, in practice, results in the communism and totalitarianism that rose to prominence in the 20th century, since they were atheistic regimes.

This argument is very misleading. It’s true that these regimes rejected the notion of God and engaged in religious persecution; however, in my view, their atheism is a veil for another form of religious belief. This came in the form of worshipping the state as a God. When Karl Marx wrote that religion is the opiate of the masses, he was implying that people’s devout religiosity can be channeled into a devout worship of the state, representing the will of the proletariat.

In closing, it’s very important to understand atheism, not only in order to have clear-minded debates and discussions, but also to understand the role it plays in our daily lives. The potential exists for convergence regarding many topics about which both atheists and people of faith tend to care.

Robert Dimuro

Posted on October 28, 2018 20:05

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