Atheist Activist Group Defines Atheism

Every Christmas season, the Christophobic atheist activists go bonkers anytime some little town puts up a nativity scene to celebrate Christmas.  The Freedom From Religion Foundation uses those Christmas celebrations as an excuse to get their local activists to set up an atheist sign with the hope of generating more controversy and publicity.

This year, Jerry Bloom won the Activist of the Year Award by a state chapter of American Atheists Inc. for putting up the FFRF sign.

Now, what catches my interest in the  content of the sign.  Here is what it preaches:

“There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that burdens our hearts and enslaves our minds.’’

Whoa!  What’s this?  For years we have been told atheism is simply lack of belief in God.  But here we have atheist activists publicly proclaiming at least three beliefs:

  1. There is no God.
  2. There is only our natural world.
  3. Religion is a just a harmful superstition.

That’s a long way from “lack of god belief.”

In 2017, I think we need to look more closely at the definition of atheism.  For the FFRF beliefs are not an aberration.  While a very small number of professional philosophers might adhere to the “atheism = lack of god belief” position, I think we need to consider the possibility that, when it comes to internet atheists and atheist activists, the “atheism is just a lack of god belief” position is nothing more than a dishonest, rhetorical posture.

Instead, most of these atheists do indeed believe “there is no God” and thus atheism is a belief that God does not exist.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in atheism, atheist activism, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Atheist Activist Group Defines Atheism

  1. Kelly says:

    You’re right that there’s a big distinction between atheism as a mere epistemic/doxastic status (“soft”/”passive atheism”–the etymological view of atheism as the mere absence of belief [a-theos]) and as “hard”or “active” atheism which is atheism plus other attempted justifications/reasons for it, etc.

    …But you’re absolutely not the first to discover it, and atheists have employed the distinction for *a long time*– a great many of them acknowledge it, and employ the soft/passive/implicit” and “hard/active/explicit” labels to accommodate both stands. See the opening chapters of Martin’s 1991 book on atheism for an explanation and history of it.

  2. Kevin says:

    “But you’re absolutely not the first to discover it, and atheists have employed the distinction for *a long time*”

    Of course Michael isn’t the first to discover it. Anyone who has dealt with the New Atheist movement is familiar with both versions – what they claim to be (soft) and what their actions and words show them to be (hard). Consider their words:

    “There is no evidence for any god. None. Not one shred of evidence. Not only is there no evidence for a god, there can’t be evidence for a god because the very idea is incoherent. Every argument for a god fails. The only reason anyone believes in any god is because they were brainwashed. There is not one single reason for anyone to believe in a god, and plenty of reasons to not believe in them.”

    versus their claims about themselves:

    “I don’t disbelieve in gods, I just lack belief in them. I’m very open minded, and will instantly change my mind given supporting evidence of a god.”

    These are both amalgamations of the views of Dawkins, Coyne, Harris, Myers, etc. These are statements that can be found within the writings of the leaders and members of the New Atheist movement. They also clash quite beautifully, as they are wholly incompatible. No one who is that adamant that every last argument every presented by every single theist utterly fails beyond consideration, no one who is that certain that there is literally – LITERALLY – no evidence for any god (no evidence at all, in case that wasn’t clear) and compares god-belief to unicorns and fairies and teapots orbiting other planets, is open minded and simply lacks belief. They believe there is no god.

    And there is zero evidence – literally – that their claims about their open-mindedness are true. They are close-minded ideologues who are anti-religious bigots, nothing more.

    That’s the New Atheist movement, mind you, not all atheists. Some atheists actually are smart enough, and open-minded enough, to understand how the evidence could appear to support belief in a god, and that theists aren’t fools or idiots or liars or victims of brainwashing.

  3. Regual Llegna says:

    I have to add:
    “The winter solstice (or hibernal solstice), also known as midwinter, is an astronomical phenomenon marking the day with the shortest period of daylight and the longest night of the year. In the Northern Hemisphere this is the December solstice and in the Southern Hemisphere this is the June solstice.” from wikipeida.

    The Freedom From Religion Foundation sign say: “At this Season of Winter Solstice”, what are the reasons that those atheists have to acknowledge this, outside a astronomical event that happen every 365 days. I know that every celebration of in Winter Solstice and others changes of seasons exist because some philosophical or religious reasons like in animism, greek mythology (Hades Takes a Wife: Persephone,), some religious naturalistic tradition like fertility celebrations or something to do with a last harvest of the year. Atheists, humanists, selularists, auto-theists and of course anti-theist have not reasons at all to celebrate anything in Winter Solstice that have roots on “atheiststic beliefs”.

    See this page for some celebrations:
    https://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/december-solstice-customs.html

    There are others celebrations, but not one, in my knowledge, related to atheism. Is apparent that they, specifically, want to “ruin” christmas for christians or oppropiate the celebration of christmas, or tlike say happy holydays (“holy days”?/fixed day to be happy for no reason?), as a secular celebration, that at the end have nothing to do with anything secularism at all.

    Maybe the truth is that a religion and devotion are necesary to make a stable culture or at least a good part of it.

  4. FZM says:

    You’re right that there’s a big distinction between atheism as a mere epistemic/doxastic status (“soft”/”passive atheism”–the etymological view of atheism as the mere absence of belief [a-theos]) and as “hard”or “active” atheism which is atheism plus other attempted justifications/reasons for it, etc.

    I wonder about the point of ‘soft atheism’ when it is described in this way because it is a-rational (i.e. if it doesn’t involve any kind of decision or judgement to reject theistic beliefs of all kinds because they seem improbable, not credible etc. Nor a conclusion that theistic claims are meaningless, nor a judgement that it’s impossible to know anything about the existence of any God/gods because of the limits of human reason or anything like that. This seems to put it outside rational discourse.)

    It has no bearing on or relationship to questions like whether God or any gods exist, the value of theistic belief and so on.

    Someone claiming to hold such a position and then wanting to talk about the probability of the existence of God, the value of theistic belief or religion, evidence for the existence of God/gods would be contradicting themselves.

    Finally, has anyone ever been interested in discussing it? It seems like it would mostly be talking about the non-belief of inanimate objects, animals, people in comas, cadavers and so on or treating as significant the fact that babies, or people whose language you can’t understand, are unable to articulate and communicate their beliefs and experiences to you.

  5. Regual Llegna says:

    FZM says: “Finally, has anyone ever been interested in discussing it? It seems like it would mostly be talking about the non-belief of inanimate objects, animals, people in comas, cadavers and so on or treating as significant the fact that babies, or people whose language you can’t understand, are unable to articulate and communicate their beliefs and experiences to you.”

    This.

    For gnus atheists, christians and all people with theistic beliefs are irrational in their eyes, that means that they are the ones that cannot rationalize theist people beliefs.

  6. TFBW says:

    It’s a game of equivocation that atheist activists play, like a shell game. Atheism can be mere non-theism, but atheist activists are not merely that. On the contrary, they make many anti-theistic claims, such as those enumerated in this post. When asked to back up their position, however, they hide the ball under the non-theism shell, and pretend to merely lack belief, thereby absolving themselves of any burden of proof. As soon as scrutiny is averted, of course, the ball goes back under the anti-theism shell and it’s all positive claims about the non-existence of the supernatural and the innate harmfulness of religion again. And so it goes.

  7. Michael says:

    You’re right that there’s a big distinction between atheism as a mere epistemic/doxastic status (“soft”/”passive atheism”–the etymological view of atheism as the mere absence of belief [a-theos]) and as “hard”or “active” atheism which is atheism plus other attempted justifications/reasons for it, etc.

    …But you’re absolutely not the first to discover it, and atheists have employed the distinction for *a long time*– a great many of them acknowledge it, and employ the soft/passive/implicit” and “hard/active/explicit” labels to accommodate both stands. See the opening chapters of Martin’s 1991 book on atheism for an explanation and history of it.

    I never claimed to be the first to discover it. I’m simply pointing out that many atheist activists are hard atheists who pretend to be soft atheists for the purposes of their actvist agendas. This is deception.

    This does, however, raise a different question. Why are there hard and soft atheists? More specifically, why is it that this supposed committment to evidence and reason does not deliver a consensus among all atheists? The fact that both hard and soft atheists exist suggests there is a subjective dimension to atheism.

  8. Dhay says:

    > … content of the sign. Here is what it preaches: “At this Season of the Winter Solstice,
    LET REASON PREVAIL.
    There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that burdens our hearts and enslaves our minds.’’

    FREEDOM FROM RELIGION FOUNDATION FFRF.org

    Note that this was not a constitution-based ‘freedom of religion’ (including the freedom to have no religion), it was a ‘freedom from religion’ sign. The FFRF organisation, then, is not a mere enthusiast for the full and equal application of the constitution, but explicitly anti-religious; American Atheists (or at minimum the local Chapter, on whose behalf the sign went up) likewise.

    Note also that, as Regual Llegna points out, unlike the Christian seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent, etc, there is no Season of winter solstice. The winter solstice is an astronomical moment only.

    There’s that ubiquitous ‘Reason’ again, which if the usage in “Reason Rally” is to be trusted means little more than a combination of denigrating religion and religious people and promoting part of the spectrum of political and social liberalism. (I ask myself, is ‘Reason’ irrational?)

    “There are no devils” … I’ll come back to that.

    “There is only our natural world.” Only! Yuval Noah Harari’s book A Brief History of Humankind – excerpts were read out on BBC radio a while back – includes a section on legal entities such as Peugeot: he points out at length that Peugeot is a strange entity indeed – it’s nothing physical (or “natural” as the FFRF sign puts it) – you could change all the directors and workforce, it would survive the bombing and total destruction of all factories, it could diversify partly or entirely into other and very different products, it could move between countries, it could be taken over by Volkswagen as a child of the Volkswagen parent company and vice versa, it could … Harari goes into great detail about how the legal entity “Peugeot” survives it all, and isn’t anything identifiable as physical. So if “there is only our natural world” as the FFRF claims, evidently the FFRF denies Peugeot and other companies exist. Then there’s truth, justice, reason, Reason, reliable and unreliable epistemologies, Marxism, pi, France, the NHS and the square root of minus-one, to mention just a small fraction of things I can name which are not part of “our natural world”.

    “Religion is but myth and superstition…” Funny isn’t it, how there is no good definition of what religion is, no good definition generally accepted by philosophers and certainly not one that encompasses Abrahamic religions and Buddhism satisfactorily, but the FFRF can tell us exactly what religion is.

    Thanks, FFRF for clarifying that the “R” stands for “myth and superstition”; that being so, I have no objection at all to your Freedom From Myth and Superstition Foundation (FFM&SF).

    “Religion is but myth and superstition…” That’s a direct insult to all religious people, calling us superstitious and believers in mere (“but”) myth. It’s hate speech, and while I would want a professional legal opinion to be sure, I strongly suspect this and suchlike display banner messages would be illegal in Britain. Yet the FFRF claims to wonder why their in-your-face insulting signs get vandalised.

    “Religion … burdens our hearts and enslaves our minds.’’ Hmmm, doesn’t Sam Harris say in effect that it’s primarily the illusion of self which “burdens our hearts and enslaves our minds’’, and that following the teachings and practices of religion, following the mystics of the Buddhist religion in particular, frees our hearts and minds; so the FFRF appears to contradict the teachings of one prominent New Atheist, or looked at the other way, a prominent New Atheist disagrees with this part of the banner message; and many or most Christians also disagree. What was it – “That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.” So what’s the scientific evidence backing that “Religion … burdens our hearts and enslaves our minds” claim. You do have a reliable epistemology for that claim, don’t you.

    *

    The above is the usual sign, put up (in areas where signs and displays are both allowed, not just one or the other, as occasionally happens) alongside Christian Christmas displays. That is, alongside some Christian Nativity scene displays the FFRF puts up a sign insulting the intelligence of Christians.

    Satanists do the same: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2016/12/22/catholic-writer-placing-a-satanic-display-near-a-nativity-scene-is-a-form-of-vandalism/

    The FFRF used a different tack when it put up a sign next to a Satanic (Hemant Mehta’s terminology) display – complete with inverted pentagram and picture of Baphomet – next to a Nativity scene display. No longer was the message “There are no gods, no devils …”, the message was crafted to not ridicule Satanism or oppose it in any way.

    So the FFRF message became “KEEP Saturn IN Saturnalia”. That’s a piece of nonsense unless the “Saturn” in Saturnalia is the original Roman god, Saturn, the god after which Saturnalia was named and was celebrated as a religious festival; in which case how does this square with the FFRF’s usual “There are no gods …” message. Someone must have pointed this out, because there’s a picture of the astronomical body, Saturn, c/w rings, alongside the text to obscure and mislead from the obvious “Put a Roman god back into a Roman religious festival” – and go celebrate that instead of Christmas – message.

    It’s incoherent and hypocritical: The FFRF claims “There are no gods, no devils …” except when it supports a local Satanist’s display by sticking a banner alongside promoting a Roman god and Roman religion.

    Go figure.

    *

    Unsurprisingly, Mehta was able to blog that this particular pair of signs was vandalised “eight times in a mater of weeks”:

    The only reason the displays are in Sanborn Square park to begin with is because the local government allowed a Nativity scene in the same area. That display has not been vandalized at all. None of them should be. But if law enforcement can’t stop the vandalism in a public park, despite repeated damage to the non-theistic displays, it’s effectively the same as forbidding atheists from putting up the displays at all, which would be unconstitutional.

    Officials must change the rules so that no third party displays of any kind are allowed in public parks or police these displays the same way you know they would if the Baby Jesus had been stolen for the eighth time.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2017/01/03/a-satanic-display-in-a-florida-park-has-been-vandalized-yet-again/

    Have I read this right: Mehta wants 24/7 security for those signs at public expense; and if the police won’t provide that – despite limited resources and rather more pressing priorities, such that I don’t think even “Baby Jesus” would get 24/7 police surveillance – then all displays “must” be banned, Nativity scenes included.

    In your dreams, Mehta. If you (and others?) want 24/7 security, you are going to have to provide it yourself.

    *

    Mehta tells us that the FFRF and Satanist displays are not vandalism: “… [Christians] don’t have any more of a right to those areas than the rest of us. That’s why opposing displays go up in the same areas. That’s not “vandalism.” That’s exercising our rights.” Yep, same rules for everyone.

    When the FFRF wanted to put up a sign in Shelton which the city judged would be “offensive to many”, the FFRF insisted on those same rules for everyone, then found that under the City’s rules there’s areas for displays (such as Nativity scenes) and different areas for banners; so under the ‘same rules for everyone’ rule the FFRF’s banner could go up, but in the latter area.

    Mehta got pissed off, or claimed to be, because the Mayor then put up a sign alongside the FFRF’s miserable and insulting sign, the City’s saying a cheerful and very secular “Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the City of Shelton”. Which Mehta claimed was a spiteful thing to do.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2016/12/22/after-atheist-puts-let-reason-prevail-banner-in-ct-park-spiteful-mayor-puts-up-his-own-sign/

    The City’s sign was colourful and cheerful, a probably locally welcomed balance to the dismal FFRF sign – which looks like it was designed and written by Marvin the Paranoid Android.

    Funny how it’s spiteful when the City’s cheerful secular sign goes up alongside a FFRF sign, but not spiteful when an anti-religious and insulting FFRF sign (nor spiteful when it’s a Satanist sign) goes up alongside a Nativity display. I’d say Mehta is using spin and double standards.

  9. Dhay says:

    > In 2017, I think we need to look more closely at the definition of atheism.

    Looking at the attempted redefinition of humanism by Jerry Coyne might also be appropriate. In his blog post dated 31 December 2016 and entitled “A smarmy NYT article about atheism and humanism”, Coyne effectively identifies humanism and atheism:

    In the past few months I’ve given two talks—one for the American Humanists and the other for the Freedom From Religion Foundation—on the relationship between atheism, humanism, and social good. I started both talks by asking the audience to raise their hands if they considered themselves humanists. Every hand went up. I then asked how many of those with their hands up also considered themselves atheists. I watched carefully, and not a hand went down.

    It takes a Coyne to go to a humanist group, to what seems to be in practice an atheist group – are Christian humanists welcomed – who focus on being nice to people (I’ll take Coyne’s characterisation, below at face value) instead of focussing on being anti-religious like specifically atheist groups and there draw conclusions from 100% of his audience being humanists and 100% being atheists; heck, if there were any theists or non-atheists in American Humanists, whyever should he expect them to turn up a talk by an arch-New Atheist.

    I don’t see why anyone should expect Christian humanists to join or turn up at an American Humanists meeting: Christian humanism is propounded from the pulpit, and best expressed through ordinary Christian values, both in everyday mundane life and through outreach.

    … And it takes a Coyne to turn up to a Freedom From Religion group and not expect to find that there’s 100% atheists there; and with humanists being ‘atheists, but we like to think we are nicer’ it is no surprise – except, apparently to Coyne – to find that 100% chose the ‘nice’ self-description.

    Regarding the Freedom From Religion Foundation members, I think it is appropriate to recount the apocryphal story of the man who related how he was now free from his former cigarette addiction: he had, he said, stubbed out his last cigarette some fifteen years, seven months, one week, six days, nineteen hours, two minutes and fifty … eight seconds ago.

    Coyne continued:

    That makes sense: after all, humanists believe that we are in charge of our own and others’ welfare, and nearly everyone arrives at that view after rejecting gods. To me, then, it doesn’t make sense to seriously discuss humanism without at least mentioning its origins, and that involves rejecting any kind of theism.

    Still, there are those who praise humanism but can’t resist the opportunity to have a whack at atheism. And that brings us to today’s article.

    https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2016/12/31/a-smarmy-nyt-article-about-atheism-and-humanism/

    That doesn’t make sense: after all, Christians believe that we are in charge of our own and others’ welfare, and nearly everyone arrives at that view after accepting God. But Coyne is determined to redefine humanism: humanism “involves rejecting any kind of theism.”

    *

    Not everybody thinks like Coyne. Here’s a link to a 08 December 2009 article entitled “Christian humanism, religious humanism, and secular humanism”, providing an interesting overview of those varieties of humanism:

    http://www.centerforinquiry.net/blogs/show/christian_humanism_religious_humanism_and_secular_humanism/

    So what apologist is attempting to claim that Christians and other religious people can be humanists? It’s a certain John Snook, who was:

    Director of Education and Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Inquiry–Transnational in Amherst, N.Y., and Research Associate in Philosophy at the University at Buffalo, since 2006. He has authored and edited more than a dozen books, is a co-editor of three philosophy journals…

    But the knowledge of philosophy and history possessed by Coyne makes his opinion much to be preferred to that of some ignoramus who is merely of a professional philosopher and staunch atheist with a prominent role at the atheist Centre For Inquiry (now merged into the Richard Dawkins Foundation) – in Coyne’s opinion.

    It looks like, in Coyne’s opinion, there’s no Christian humanism; there’s no religious humanism; there’s not even secular humanism: all humanism is atheist humanism, subsumed into atheism.

  10. Dhay says:

    This is from a guest post entitled “White Nationalist Richard Spencer Says He’s an Atheist”, by David McAfee, on Hemant Mehta’s blog:

    As a secular activist, this tells me more than the religious preference of a particular White Nationalist. It tells me that no matter how much some atheists want to believe otherwise, we’re not inherently rational or reasonable. Spencer’s beliefs (or lack thereof) debunk that myth in one fell swoop.

    The fact is that atheists share one thing and only one thing: a lack of belief in any god(s). The rest of it — the Humanist aspect of it, at least — isn’t guaranteed at all.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2017/01/22/white-nationalist-richard-spencer-says-hes-an-atheist/

    So, however much the Reason Rally people would like to promote the idea (and however much some atheists would like the cachet), ‘Science and Reason’ and atheism are by no means identical. Says a Humanist.

    And contrary to Jerry Coyne’s determination to effectively identify humanism and atheism — see my previous response — a Humanist says that atheism and humanism are not the same.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s