One of the things that irritates me about theists is that because they subscribe to a belief system that involves made up fairy tales, they only feel comfortable if they can claim that atheists subscribe to a similarly unprovable and delusional belief system. It’s the adult version of “So am I but what about you” epithet thrown back in defense when one is accused of something stupid. It’s as if theism would not be valid unless it’s compared with its opposite, which makes no logical sense. Theism should stand or fall on its own merits, but it always falls, as a belief system, upon even the slightest scrutiny. To deflect us from that scrutiny, theists point out that we hold equally silly beliefs. Let’s look at that.
By its very definition atheism is, at best, a lack of belief. And it is a lack of belief in a very singular entity – gods, or sometimes more encompassing, the supernatural.
There are lots of things – millions, probably billions – that I don’t believe in, things that theists share a lack of belief in. I don’t believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or leprechauns, or unicorns, to name three things that have some cultural, albeit fictional, reality. I also don’t believe in square circles, Gloogonians living on the 10th planet circling star H-437 in the Blodostic galaxy, or the existence of my 4th child. None of this means that I center my life around a belief system that positively disbelieves in those things. I don’t really care, and never think about them, and might even change my mind if someone showed me that circles were square, the Gloogonians had established an embassy in Washington DC, or if my long lost and previously unknown child knocked on my door with irrefutable DNA results. In the meantime, they occupy not one inch, not one millimeter (for those in a 10 base reality) of my present worldview.
My atheism is more of a by-product of a few other “isms” that I find valuable in dealing with my life – rationalism, skepticism, materialism, naturalism and humanism. These combine to procure a worldview that is, by their very definitions, rational and logical tinged with a healthy dose of “show me before I believe it”; a sense that “What you see is what you get” and that science, not dogma, produces the best results for obtaining truth about reality; and finally, that I owe allegiance to my fellow humans, and not some made up mythical being, because they are here and now and I am an integral part of them. The application of those disciplines and thought processes to the world produce as a by-product, and a relatively inconsequential one at that, a lack of belief in gods, because there is nothing that lends any credence to the assertion that gods exist – not so-called holy books, not revelation, not miracles. Nothing, nada, zip.
Atheism only exists because theism exists. The rise and prevalence of theism is perfectly understandable, given human nature, history, and other areas of inquiry, but if theism had never been constructed by man, if we had no belief in gods, then atheism wouldn’t exist either, because we’d have no need to define a word contrary to the delusion we call religion. Our commonly held understanding of reality would not include a belief in the supernatural, so atheism would not be needed.
Indeed, atheism would exist without acknowledgment or definition. The term for it would be “reality”.