Subtitled: Why Ron Rosenbaum Really Gets Under My Skin
I just finished reading through this gloriously misguided article over on Slate advocating for a "New(er) Agnosticism" to supplant the rise of us "New Atheists." "Us," seems a little presumptive, doesn't it, I mean, Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris...Thompson? Er, not quite. But for whatever it's worth I throw in with those gentlemen.
This isn't really a new argument, theists have been using it for years. It goes something like this: "Well, you atheists are just the same as us. You have faith in something springing out of nothing. You just have a different kind of faith! Blah blah blah..."
Rosenbaum puts it thusly:
"Faith-based atheism? Yes, alas. Atheists display a credulous and childlike faith, worship a certainty as yet unsupported by evidence—the certainty that they can or will be able to explain how and why the universe came into existence."
I hate to be one of those guys, but I need to step in right away and criticize Mr. Rosenbaum for his word choice. "Worship?" "Worship a certainty?" You lost me right here, Ron, in paragraph three of your missive.
This alone seems to demonstrate that you misunderstand atheism. Atheists worship nothing. It may be true that atheists have the hope, or even the expectation, that eventually the greater mysteries of the universe will be solved, but it is not true to say that atheists have a "childlike faith" in its inevitability. Atheists rely on science, art, literature, philosophy...essentially all of those things which stem from education; these are relied upon in the search for truth. But they aren't "worshiped."
It is true to say that in our heart of hearts, most atheists believe their probably is no God. In fact, that's near to how Richard Dawkins phrased it in his book, as I recall. "Why there almost certainly is no God," something like that. But that isn't faith. That's a reasonable judgment based on an examination of the evidence at hand. Nevertheless, and Professor Dawkins would be the first to say this, were credible evidence presented manana that God's really up there in the clouds, we'd be happy to examine it and internalize it and then use it to reevaluate where we stand.
Atheism, the word itself, is a symbol of the depths to which religious dogma reduces us. I do not require a word to identify myself as NOT believing in fairies, or in the magic of Peter Pan, or of witches. But because of the pervasive influence of religion it is necessary to have a term describing someone who lacks faith in something s/he has never seen, heard, or experienced: God.
But just because this term exists, and even though it seems to suggest a sort of dialectic with theism, they are not opposites sharing a foundation; theism relies on faith, atheism does not. It's just common sense. It's just the natural conclusion an educated, reasonable, unrestrained person should make. In much the same way that I don't believe in Bigfoot, or the Loch Ness Monster. It just seems reasonable to me to not believe in those things.
Rosenbaum apparently sees things differently. He would counter: "Ah! But you're placing faith in your disbelief of the Sasquatch. How can you say with 100% certainty that it doesn't exist? You're just as absurd as those who believe sans evidence."
Well, Ron, no...I'm not. I'm just being reasonable.
"Well, there's a world of difference between Bigfoot and God. Atheism makes claims against knowledge of creation, of existence itself."
If you're nodding your head now, shame on you.
No, it doesn't. I don't claim to know how/why/by what means the universe was created. I have neither the intelligence nor the education to understand why, and to the best of my knowledge men and women much smarter than I who've studied this all their lives are pretty much in the same boat.
Nor have I ever seen, experienced, witnessed, caught scent of, heard legitimate rumor of...God. So I don't believe. That is why I'm an atheist.