Monday, 16 April 2012

Atheist Convention - just a thinly veiled phrase for anti religion. So come out and say that.

I'm finding myself increasingly puzzled by the Atheists. This week Melbourne hosted the Atheist Convention. Essentially as Richard Dawkins said that is a convention of non believers. So I'm trying to think of any other situation where people have a convention to show that they DON'T believe that something exists.  Nobody holds "Tooth Fairy non believer" conventions, so why hold a "Judaeo Christian God non believer" convention?

Is it a reason convention?
Perhaps it's less dramatic to hold a conference on reason and logic but isn't that what Atheists are supposed to stand for. Aren't they simply people who have considered all the reasoned evidence and have concluded that there is no god. Aren't they just trying to emphasize the importance and value of critical reasoning?

I'm all for logical reasoning and objective evaluation of the facts. But the focus of an Atheist convention is the narrow topic of objectively analyzing whether there is a god, and everyone agreeing that there isn't one.

So does being an Atheist mean you make a commitment to Atheism?

Atheist are just as committed to their belief in atheism as believers in other religions are in their deities. And yes, it does include an element of belief because even when we analysts assess data we still have to form a view based on the most likely interpretation, and we have to leave open the possibility that there is a better one.

Yet being an atheist requires a commitment to the conclusion that there ain't a god. That sounds awfully close to a value system to me.

Atheism looks just like another religion

I have this debate with a number of people about what makes a religion. Given that you can believe in any number of religions or cults (religions without many followers) involving none, one or many gods, doesn't a fervent commitment to Atheism look just like a fervent commitment to any other religion?

The Atheists say no. But then again, we are back to opinion based on belief. I say that Atheism is actually the belief that religions based on a God are harmful and wrong.

Frankly, I think there is some merit in that argument, but it moves an Atheist from being a non believer to being an anti-religion campaigner. It makes Atheism a system of thinking based on the unshakeable view that there is no God.

That looks awfully like a religion to me.

Call it for what it is: the anti religion convention

Maybe  "non believer" is tame, "Atheist" is strong and "Anti religion campaigner" is likely to set lynch mobs on you. That could be why the real anti religion ethos isn't front and centre.

I think that's a shame because it is clouding the issues. If the campaigns are really about removing subsidies for religious institutions, then say it. If the campaigns are really about ensuring that every child at every school is taught the scientific facts of evolution, then say it. If the focus is on casting aspersions on the mental capacity of anyone who believes that there is a God or Gods, come right out and state it.

The whole Atheist movement is confusing. There are some very valuable contributions being made to society by Atheists because of the way they understand the world, but I don't see how it matters whether they are Atheists to make those contributions.

After all, if there is no God, then believing or not has nothing to do with it. 

Let me know what you think

Mark S


  1. Flip your hypothesis round for a second.

    If christians are just anti-gay campaigners, then why don't they just come out and say it?

    The fact is that there's more to it than one single position. Atheism encompasses both anti-religious people, people who don't care either way, and some who think the trappings of religion are a positive thing despite the absurdity of the supernatural claims. So an umbrella term is needed.

  2. It is more than "objectively analyzing whether there is a god".

    Until the last ~8 yrs, atheists have hardly ever been a collective. With religion decreasing in the western world, especially Christianity, the remaining religious are more ardent and more than trying to hold their ground in the public arena. Witness expanding religion in schools through the recently-introduced national chaplaincy program and evangelising though "'special' religious instruction/education". Witness increasing creationism & so-called 'intelligent design'. Witness the Catholic-dominated Aust. coalition. Witness UK PM Cameron's recent appeals to 'Christian heritage', etc.

    It is about a collective to negate a number of areas of unfair and irrational domination.

  3. Thanks for the comments. You are largely proving my point. I agree that te teaching of intelligent design (instead of evolution) is a retrograde step and should be reversed. But this is a political act, it's not just about a debate on whether or not there is a god. It is activism.
    I could see myself supporting a movement that was overt about reversing te influence of any ideological group on our schools. I'd feel the same if the Collingwood Football Club infiltrated all schools or if Rugby League evangelized to teach kids not to play AFL.

  4. You make the mistake of assuming that an atheist convention must, by it's very nature, discuss basic ideas and precepts of atheism. This is like assuming that an engineering convention involves a whole lot of talk about the basic laws of physics. This is patently ridiculous and also rather insulting to our intellect. A convention is grounded on the most basic commonality and works out from there and so we must be discussing the bigger ideas. Otherwise we're simply running an Atheism 101 class.

  5. Janey, I'm not assuming that at all. And I have the highest of regard for the intellect of many people who are fervent atheists. What I am asking is what are the basic commonlities that you refer to? Are they simply a non belief in a god? Or are they a commitment to a secular society?