Atheism In The Dawkins Age
My Sooterkin™ is currently doing an OU course entitled “Why is Religion Controversial?” He talks over his essays with me which is fascinating. However, I now have come to realise that I am an atheist. It’s not just through these conversations that I have come to define myself as such. This is after a long process of thought, reading the definitions and understandings of people such as Annie Besant (who later turned to spirituality and denied atheism), Terry Pratchett, the aforementioned Dawkins and many other atheists. I was a Christian in my youth; attending a wonderful Methodist church with a female vicar from the age of four until I was 16 and teaching Sunday School to 4-6 year olds from the age of 12, then joining sixth form friends at what I called a ‘happy clappy’ evangelical church until I was 18. By then though I was questioning everything, especially the gender hierarchy which seems inherent in Christian religious practice.
At both churches the people were kind, friendly, caring, witty and everything that one would picture a Christian to be. No fundamentalist extremism of any kind there. I loved the people, and stayed longer than my faith lasted because of them. My church was female-led, which I later found to be quite unusual. I realised that after thought and careful consideration I could not claim to have faith. However, I held back from identifying as an atheist, preferring ‘agnostic’ or my own invention ‘scippy’ (scientific-leaning hippy).
People such as Megan Fox – not that one
THIS one. She makes Christianity seem ridiculous, ignorant and a faith for those who cannot have an open mind. Watch this link to see how she audits science museums for her homeschooling.
This is not my experience of Christians. In other faiths, the media concentrates on extreme acts of individualistic terror which again have nothing to do with the faith and everything to do with power and control. Patriarchy is fundamentally based on a reading of religion in which the male has power over the female – in Catholicism it is the tempting of Eve and her failure which leads to the fall from grace and the concept of original sin, for which women are punished with the pain of childbirth.
All this, however, is not to do with God or Gods, or faith. It is everything to do with maintaining an unequal hierarchy. Faith in a ‘creator’, an omniscient higher being whether benevolent or controlling, is an individuals relationship with that which gives their life meaning and a moral centre. Religious organisations can be supportive and caring and provide succour and aid to those of the faith and those of the community who do not have faith.
My beloved-awesome-favouritist-blogger-EVER™ Betty Fokker is currently writing about Atheism, from a US faith-based perspective. It is she who has inspired me to write this blog. I agree with her that ‘Atheism’ is an umbrella term which simply means one does not believe in a deity or deities. There is a multitude of definitions within that term with which one can align oneself. The one which seems to get the most publicity is what I call the Dawkins Age of Atheism – non-theism/anti-theism.
Non-theism or anti-theism is not a passive personal belief based on a lack of empirical scientifically verifiable repeated test-based proof of a deity or deities, as is my atheism. This is an active denial and confrontation of anyone who identifies as a person of any faith, often accompanied by ridicule and derision. Read Dawkins “The God Delusion” to see how his use of language and terminology is clearly propagandist and insulting towards those of faith. It’s an extreme way of presenting a viewpoint which denies the agency of others to express personal faith however they see fit.
I do not recognise this anti-theism as anything other than another form of extremist oppressive pushing of one’s own thoughts onto another.
My atheism is based on the following:
- No scientifically based proof of the existence of any form of deity. Like all scientific processes, this means I am open to the possibility should science one day prove there is a deity.
- I do not subscribe to a human-centred view of the universe, which religion is. A deity implies the earth and heavens (or other interpretation) has created all of, well, creation for the use of humanity. I do not see how this is remotely possible, given humans have not been around for most of ‘creation’.
- I do not trust the idea that a system of morality and caring should be imposed on a person from an external source and that it cannot exist without the structure of religious imposition. External imposition allows for suppression and oppression. We have a set of rules that are secular, but that are changeable according to the majority (or should be, but this is leading onto a whole other discussion…).
- Religion (as opposed to faith) does not allow for such change. It is too rigid and set within structural hierarchical organisations which oppress in many different ways, including but not limited to gender, sexuality, race and economic status. Like any other social and/or political system, really.
- Faith is based on blind trust. I am not made that way. Others are.
I am an atheist. I am not an anti-theist. I am a non-theist based upon the fact there is no scientific evidence of the existence of a deity, but am open to the future possibility of proof that satisfies scientific criteria becoming available. I am not a fan of religious organisations, but on the whole those who express faith are people I can become extremely fond of. They care, they work for others, they believe in the basic goodness of people. It can be an extremely positive personal support system. Atheism is not anti-people of faith, in my opinion.
I am not a Dawkins Atheist. He and those who shout loudest are the extremists of atheism, and like all extremism, they are the ones with the publicity. Does anyone else ever get exhausted by the screaming of extremist minorities deafening the kind, caring majority, or is it just me?