I used to visit Quora, a question and answer website, I spent many hours a week interacting with other users, I say used to, because the site has a “be nice, be respectful” policy that is either not enforced at all, or enforced excessively in defence of an individuals personal beliefs.
In almost all of the interactions I had with convinced theists (or trolls posing as convinced theists), they try to tell me what I think, usually using the same words too: “Atheists believe that god does not exist”. They capitalise the “g” in “god”, as if it’s a name, and because they seem to think that only one god has ever been proposed, despite the fact that the planets in our solar system, and thus the days of the week, are named after pre-Christian, perhaps even pre-Abrahamic, gods. For this reason, I refuse to capitalise the “g”, and use some of the Abrahamic gods names (El, Yahweh or Jehovah) to drive the point home.
It has a name, and it bloody well isn’t “god”.
For those who are confused, the “a” tacked onto the beginning of theism, to make atheism, indicates a lack of something. In this instance, theism. In the same way that asymmetry is the absence of symmetry.
So, if theism is the belief in a god or gods, atheism is not the opposite of theism, it is not a belief that gods do not exist, that would be antitheism, it is the absence of belief in a god or gods.
Try as I did, not one of the theists I dealt with had any intention of accepting that atheism is not a rival religion to their own, they want it to be a belief system. It’s always “You can’t prove that god does not exist, so how do you know that atheism is true?”. The obvious counter to this is to point out that atheism isn’t a belief system, it’s the absence of a belief in a theistic belief system. Without exception it falls on deaf ears.
I have a theory as to why. Right up until the 19th century, religious claims were pretty much the best explanation humankind had, all a religion had to do in order to take over from an earlier belief system, was lay claim to portents and omens more convincingly, or appeal to the self interest of the locals more effectively, with shinier shrines or grander afterlives.
Religions simply aren’t prepared for unbelief, they’ve always been able to silence, or exterminate, their critics. but since Darwin and Wallace first hit upon evolution by natural selection, the power of religion in most parts of the world has been eroded to the point where only the most backward or totalitarian regimes can execute unbelievers or heretics.
So, in civilised countries, theists have nothing else to fall back on but the arguments they once used to terrify the local peasantry into adopting a new mythology. and when this technique fails, they fall back on attempted logic and flawed philosophy, always based upon a false premise, faulty assumption or outright non sequitur.
And when that fails, they get angry, ALL CAPS words, sentences even, demands to research “the” bible (as if there’s only one version) or Quran, threats of post mortem retribution. Only once have I ever been threatened with actual violence, but then, I do live in a country in which being an atheist is no big deal.
I’ve made the point so many times via the Quora Android app, that my ‘phone can predict what I’m about to say, I only have to type “atheism is” and the ‘phone suggests the rest of the sentence, “not a belief in the absence of gods…..”.
I always use the plural when referring to gods, to remind monotheists that their claim is not the only one, and to try to get through to fellow unbelievers that referring to the Abrahamic god in the singular, is playing into the hands of the theists who would have us all believe that their god, alone in a veritable sea of purported deities, is the only one that’s actually really real, unlike all those fake gods.
They do love to suggest that I am ignorant of the truth, like they have a handle on the deepest secrets of the cosmos because of their belief, despite frequently misunderstanding some basic conventions of the English language, like confusing “your” and “you’re” or “our” and “are”, they will occasionally apologise on behalf of some of the religious bullies and nutters who have helped to shake my former faith, as if that’s what the problem is, my anger at some of the utter arseholes I’ve tolerated in my life.
But in reality, my unbelief is based upon one thing, the fact that I cannot show that gods are even remotely plausible.
I first realised that Christianity was implausible at the age of eleven, but after only a few years at a Catholic school, I could see the cognitive dissonance at work, as people who preached love, peace and charity practiced nothing of the sort as they tried to scare their mythology into us.
So, for a long time, I was an agnostic theist, I didn’t have a specific deity in mind, but I thought, because so many people believed in gods, that there had to be something “out there”. Which is how I discovered Neo-Paganism, a rag-tag collection of revivalist theism, based upon religions long since supplanted by later mythologies.
Being a Pagan was fantastic fun, there are no prohibitions against sex, sexuality, boozing or clothing, just a well meaning bent towards ecological responsibility and not being a dick to others. I loved it, and still have many Pagan friends. But, in the end, I still had to come clean and admit it, I could no more prove Pagan deities were real, than I could disprove the existence of later gods, like El, the early name of the Abrahamic god.
The case for gods has not just been made poorly, it’s not been made at all, it requires more pig headed stubbornness now more than ever it did, because now we have proper scientific explanations for the things our ancestors could only shrug at and ascribe to magic, which drives theists bananas, in the case of Ray Comfort, literally, he tried to suggest that the banana, specifically the Cavendish type, had been created by his god, going to some length to demonstrate that it was convenient to eat, coming as it does in a convenient wrapper, in a hand portable form, curved towards the mouth, full of goodness and energy. The claim was that the banana was designed to fit the human mouth, some wags pointed out that this was also true for the human rectum, but the truth is, the wild form of the banana is nowhere near as edible, isn’t particularly curved, or suited to humans at all, the Cavendish is a human creation, not a god given treat, and comfort is either an idiot, or a fast talking shyster preying on idiots.
Time and again, claims made by religions are overthrown with actual evidence, at which point theists will desperately search their favourite scriptures for something that vaguely fits real facts, just so that they can claim that their religion got there first, but it’s a particularly weal argument, given that this revelation is only apparent after the facts have been uncovered.
I’m still open to being convinced that a god or gods exist, I would happily accept evidence of them, but it needs to be actual evidence, and that’s something that nobody I know of has ever managed to do, that’s why over 4,000 gods are being worshipped right now, and why there are so many schisms and sects within the various world religions. Actual evidence would eliminate doubt and the necessity of faith, it would leave only one religion, rather than thousands of, frequently warring, factions, who all have no more or less evidence than any of the others.
It’s so obvious, I can’t believe it took me so long to realise that religions are fake, all of them. There’s no reason at all to take them seriously, except when they’re threatening your life, eroding your civil liberties, or harming your children, and even then, they’re simply a threat, not a credible claim.