For decades we have been told that an atheist is someone who simply lacks God-belief. That is, an atheist is one who merely observes there is no evidence for God and thus belief in God is not intellectually justified. This definition has served the atheist community well by allowing them to posture as if they are objective observers and judges. As if they are a disinterested party. The way it has been set up, we theists are supposed to come before them and justify ourselves, pleading our cases with our “evidence” in hand. And if we cannot make our case to their satisfaction, then that means we are mentally ill, infected with brain viruses, and a danger to society.
Over the years, I have shown that this set-up is rigged and intellectually dishonest. There are no objective observers and judges. And what is supposed to count as “evidence” is a matter of opinion. Those who demand evidence are usually closed-minded people who insist we appear in their kangaroo courts (this why the issue of whether or not atheists are closed-minded is of central importance).
We now have new evidence that the whole definition of atheism has been rigged. For it would seem there are many atheists who do not really view atheism as a mere lack of God belief because of a lack of evidence. They instead insist there is no God. They don’t just lack God belief, they think they know God does not exist. They think they have knowledge; they think atheism is knowledge.
We’ve just seen this posturing from Louise Antony, a professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Well, it turns out that Antony’s “I know there is no God (!)” posture led to outbursts of cheering among the New Atheists.
Over at “The Friendly Atheist” activist blog, Antony’s words are highlighted:
Antony: I’m not sure what you mean by saying that I’ve taken a “strong stand as an atheist.” I don’t consider myself an agnostic; I claim to know that God doesn’t exist, if that’s what you mean.
And The Friendly Atheists responds:
Boom. Gotcha, Gutting. And well put, Antony.
More words from Antony are highlighted:
Because the question has been settled to my satisfaction. I say “there is no God” with the same confidence I say “there are no ghosts” or “there is no magic.” The main issue is supernaturalism — I deny that there are beings or phenomena outside the scope of natural law.
The response? More cheerleading:
BRB, I’m going to go fangirl all over Antony. Well put all around. It’s not that what she’s saying is new to most of the readers of this blog. There’s just something about how matter-of-factly she puts things which I find particularly appealing.
Hmmmm. It’s not that what she’s saying is new to most of the readers of that blog.
So the atheists at The Friendly Atheist believe they know God does not exist.
Then, we can turn our attention to activist Jerry Coyne’s blog (perhaps the most popular atheist blog out there). Coyne joins in on the cheerleading:
In the interview “Arguments against God,” Antony pulls no punches, claiming that she’s an atheist because she “claims to know that God doesn’t exist.” That’s a strong statement, but by “know” she doesn’t mean she has “absolute” knowledge, but rather sees sufficient evidence to conclude that God doesn’t exist—in the same sense that she concludes there are no ghosts.
When I started the interview, Antony was so cogent that I thought, “Wow! A new Horseman.” (I guess the correct word is “Horseperson”.) But things began to get a bit fuzzy and convoluted toward the end of the interview, so my enthusiasm was tempered a bit. Nevertheless, Antony is an articulate spokesperson for nonbelief and deserves a wider audience.
So Coyne, one of the leaders in the New Atheist movement, approves and endorses her “I know there is no God” stance with a “Wow!”. He even informs us that she “is an articulate spokesperson for nonbelief and deserves a wider audience.” Endorsement noted and filed.
I agree she deserves a wider audience and happy to do my small part. Thanks to the New Atheist reception, we are no longer under any intellectual obligation to treat atheism as a mere lack of God belief. It should no longer be considered the default definition. Apparently, there are a large number of atheists who think atheism is much more than a lack of belief; they believe atheism is knowledge and think they know God does not exist. Until the atheists are able to use the power of their Reason to arrive at a consensus definition for atheism, at the very least, we ought not let the “I know there is no God (!)” belief sneak under the radar.
And this raises a very ironic situation. Atheist activist Peter Boghossian is out there misleading and misinforming the public by imposing his idiosyncratic definition of faith on other people: pretending to know what you don’t know. He even insists on the following definition for atheism: “A person who doesn’t pretend to know things he doesn’t know with regard to the creator of the universe.”
But in reality, the only people who seem to be pretending to know are a significant fraction of the atheist community, including some of its most vocal leaders.