Posted: May 17, 2016 12:01 am
by don't get me started
zoon wrote:
don't get me started wrote:....the word atheist is based on a negative orientation, i.e. not believing in god(s). Now, the amount of things that a person is not is potentially unlimited. One can not be a ballerina, a Star Wars fan, a Sushi eater, a video game player and so on. Referring to oneself as an atheist only reports one aspect of what one is not. I think the problem may arise for some who are religiously minded in that their multiple identities are all subsumed under the broad heading of religion; one is a Christian ballerina or Christian Star Wars fan or Christian whatever. So, given the religious nature of some groups’ and individual’s identity, when they consider the atheist standpoint they may have a tendency to transfer their own stance to that of the atheist and assume that the atheist is an atheist in all aspects of their existence and identity. I cannot speak for others here, of course, but my stance on supernatural entities plays no role in my clothing choices, food and beverage choices, choice of marriage partner, place of employment etc. If a religious identity plays an important part in choices such as these, it may be hard for religious people to fully accept or understand how non-religious people can go about organizing such quotidian things.

The ways in which the term ‘Atheist’ is often mischaracterized by people of a religious persuasion may be revealing of their world view, not the atheist’s.

I'm not entirely happy with this insistence that "atheist" is purely negative, though I know many people here agree with it, mostly as a result of arguing with theists, where I'm not so experienced. Strictly, yes, "atheist" would include Buddhists and people who believe in ley lines or wishing wells or ghosts and pixies, but in practice people who self-identify as atheists are likely to be opposed to all forms of supernaturalism. For example, I think it's core to Buddhism that evil deeds are likely to be followed by some sort of retribution organised by the universe at large rather than by flesh-and-blood people; this is strictly an atheist view, as it doesn't involve a god, but it's not scientific, there's no good experimental evidence that it happens. I think it's fair to say that most people who actively self-identify as atheists in the modern world also follow the scientific view, that almost certainly, as suggested by experimental evidence, everything follows mathematical laws of physics and chemistry. This is in fact not a simple default claim that hunter-gatherers could have worked out, it's a tremendously ambitious and powerful one (crystallised by Newton, using highly sophisticated mathematics and vast quantities of accurate measurements made by other people) which without the mass of evidence unearthed in the last few centuries would be as wooish as any claim for a god or gods - it was essentially woo when the Pythagoreans made a similar claim more than 2 thousand years ago.


Yes, Zoon, I think you touch on an important point here. Although the word 'atheist' is primarily used to stake out a position vis-à-vis a deity or deities, the rejection of claims made about other supernatural phenomena (as in the examples you gave) are probably concomitant with the world view of any person self-identifying as atheist. Perhaps it is because the super-naturalism of religious thought holds real power in society and therefore impinges on the lives of those who are non-believers, whereas proponents of ley lines, pixies, wishing wells etc generally have little political power and can be safely ignored by those who do not accept the claims made by such people.