Atheists typically don’t appreciate it when Christians tell them what atheists think or how atheists reason. I’ve even been chastised for daring to say that atheism is the belief that no God(s) exist. “No it isn’t!” somebody will protest. “I’m an atheist and I’m without belief in God.”
Of course, being “without belief in God” is one way of identifying oneself as an agnostic. But it is true, these days some agnostics have taken to calling themselves atheists or weak atheists (a little less confusing). And if they want to call themselves atheists, they can do so. (Just like a person who believes Jesus was merely a good teacher, somewhere between Tony Robbins and the Buddha on the wisdom scale, can call themselves a Christian. I can’t stop that either!)
So while I still point out that atheism (as historically defined) is the belief that no God(s) exist (or, in contextualized form, that a particular definition of God is not actualized), I also recognize that others will demur.
Given that many atheists do not appreciate non-atheists speaking for them, I am always bemused by the comparative frequency of atheists who presume to speak for all other atheists.
So today I received the following comment from Lausten North:
“Here’s how atheism works
1) Smith accepts that there is sufficient evidence for the consensus on evolution, cosmology and archaeology to proceed with life as if those things are true.
2) If evidence to the contrary is found, Smith will consider changing his worldview.
3) Smith is really not terribly concerned with the existence of God at all.”
This is clearly false. Atheism doesn’t “work” by starting with acceptance of evolution, cosmology and archaeology (whatever that all means exactly), then accepting a willingness to change one’s beliefs, and finally not caring whether God exists. After all, a person could be an atheist and reject the current consensus on evolution, cosmology and archaeology for all sorts of reasons. Even worse, this set of claims is consistent with theism since one could believe God exists but not care about the fact.
Indeed, there is a position called “apatheism” (the term was coined by Jonathan Rauch in 2003) which states that one does not care whether God exists or not. But not caring whether God exists is consistent with believing God does exist. (For example, one could say “I believe that God exists, but that belief changes nothing about my life, and I don’t care if God happens not to exist.”)
This is a bad description of how atheism works all around. But what really strikes me about it is the extraordinary presumption, as if this describes the mindset of all atheists. Now you might be thinking I’m making too much of this, and if this were the only occasion on which I’d encountered this presumption I surely would be. But the fact is that I encounter atheists on a regular basis making similar assertions about what all atheists think and how all atheists act. So to my atheist friends: please be careful about presuming to speak for all other atheists.