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Misconceptions About Atheism part 2

May 27, 2010

“So, you believe God doesn’t exist, then?”

Yeah, I get this one a lot. It’s easy to understand why, though. For starters, there are atheists who assert that there is, indeed, no God at all. But this is a subset of atheists similar to how Baptists are a subset of Christians but not all Christians are Baptists or hold Baptist beliefs.

Another reason this myth persists is that it’s easy for people to divide everything into two groups. Us or Them. Black and White. Chocolate or Vanilla. Atheist or Theist. Edward or Jacob. Republican or Democrat. This mentality is a lowest common denominator – it’s the simplest to understand – so its pervasiveness should come as no surprise. It’s also particularly advantageous to preachers and clergy because of how conducive that rhetoric is to cohesiveness within a congregation. “Stay with us or go with them”. This not only encourages the group to stick together but also separates it from any outside influences. The implied threat of ostracism also does not and should not go unnoticed.

To put it in the form of an analogy let’s say you woke up in an empty room with nothing, no doors, windows or anything, but a computer monitor there for you to see. Let’s forget how weird this is and just continue, shall we?

Now, if the screen started printing out a message such as “In this building there is a room. In this room there is a box. In this box there is an object. This object is an apple”, would you believe it? Well, why would you? You have no reason to believe the room you are in is in a building, that the building has any more rooms than the one you’re in, that one of the rooms has a box or that the box in the room which you can’t see has anything in it at all, let alone an apple.

But, on the other hand, you could not say for certain that there is no room in that building which has a box in it which contains an apple. Logically you must exist in such a state where you can neither assert or deny the existence of the box or the contents in it. You can, however, assert what is not in the box which is a subject for another discussion.

Simply put, atheism is by definition the absence of a belief in God but not necessarily a belief in the absence of God.

Just because you refuse to reject a positive claim does not mean you accept the negative by default.

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