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My atheist declaration

February 9, 2010

Over at Triangulations, Sabio Lantz has had several posts about declaring oneself. While I was definitely taken aback by the daunting philosophy declaration table (and felt too “alien” from the Christian one), I decided to take a go at the atheist one. And it seems that it’s becoming quite popular these days to put the table in new blog entries, like is done here.

So, what about my atheist positions?

Level of Certainty: Agnostic
Level of Affirmation: Weak~
Stance toward Religion: Sympathetic
Openness: Cautiously Open
Degree of Outreach: Passive, Affirm Only
Religious Participation: Not at all…unless you count these things called blogs
Degree of Enchantment: Neutral*
Mystical Inclination: Non-mystical
Belief History:

Orthopraxy History:

Life-long nonbeliever+

Very diligent practitioner

Sect History: Mormon to the core.
Theory of Religion: Religion is like most social institutions. Take one part business and another part art…
Non-theistic Leanings: No funny ‘forces’ throughout this universe
Degree of  Secular
Superstitious Thinking:
No superstitious habits I’m aware of…
View of Reason: Highly overrated, often by atheists. Humans aren’t as rational as we’re cracked up to be.
Faith Items: I dunno. Will get back to you on this.

I guess I should now qualify a lot of stuff.

Sabio’s original post had solid descriptions for several of the items (in case you were wondering what the different cells were aiming for), but I guess I might disagree with some of the things.

~For example, under “intellectual involvement” (or what is on the table as “Level of Affirmation”), Sabio lists two options:

  • Casual Atheist=  affirms no god but hasn’t thought much about it.
  • Strong Atheist= not only lacks a belief in gods, but also affirms that no gods exist (AKA, positive, explicit atheist).  Feels strongly justified in his disbelief.

I don’t really think this is the dichotomy.

I think the dichotomy that he’s trying to approach is “weak atheism” (or negative atheism) vs. “strong atheism”. If this is the case, then his definition of strong atheism is solid.

But his “casual” atheist doesn’t really fit. Lacking a belief in gods doesn’t necessarily mean “hasn’t really thought about it.” Really, the issue is with what the definition of atheism anyway? His definition of casual atheist is not a weak atheist, but rather a lackadaisical strong atheist. E.g., he affirms no gods, but just hasn’t thought about it.

So, for my answer, I put weak. I’ve thought about things a lot. My lack of belief in gods (and that is that…a lack of belief…a disbelief…absence of belief. Not belief there is not…belief in none. etc.,) is not something feathery.

I’d make a brief comment on passive atheism too. I like how Sabio phrased this, (though I won’t quibble on this as if it’s a technical term):

Passive atheist doesn’t believe in god but doesn’t try to influence the world in favor of atheism.

Since for me, I strongly value personal authenticity and recognize inauthenticity with both theism and atheism, I have little issue with authentic, fulfilled theists. Why should I try to “take that away” from them?

On the other hand, if I ever seem unsympathetic to religion, or if I ever seem evangelical in terms of atheism, it is not for these fulfilled theists. Rather, it is for this sense I get that some people are not fulfilled, and they don’t believe, but are compelled to lie (to themselves and others) for social reasons. And you can see it in these individuals. It’s painful.

*I had a problem with the enchantment question. Sabio describes disenchanted as such:

Disenchanted – depressed thinking that there is not purpose to the universe or yourself

Well, I think this poisons the well a bit. Disenchanted does not, in my mind, mean “depressed” at all. Although I guess it depresses some people, it doesn’t seem inherently depressing to say there is not purpose to the universe (or even to ourselves). Of course, I also happen to believe that even if there is not intrinsic, inherent purpose to us, all is not lost, because we can — even if only absurdly — work to instill purpose. I guess I really have the bone to pick with this article at Common Sense Atheism (despite all the stuff he mentioned, which is pretty handy, it’s silly to say these things are “enchanting” in the same way it’s silly to say the mundane is “divine” just to invoke a metaphor) and this other one at On The Human (boo scientism. And the entire article — unapologetically — teems with it).

+The final note goes to the belief history. Sabio describes this question as one that asks about:

Tell us if you have ever been a whole-hearted believer before.  Some folks participated in religion but never with a full heart.

This is a tricky question. In many ways, Mormonism has a big undercurrent with orthopraxy. So, “participating in religion” devoutly is like being a whole-hearted believer.

But I think the issue isn’t like this. Actions are different than beliefs. I can say that I participated in my religion with all diligence, in terms of I cared about my priesthood duties, about learning the gospel, etc., So, to say I did it “without a full heart” seems to cheapen my experience in a way I cannot do.

HOWEVER, I recognize that the thing called “faith,” or “true belief,” is something I just don’t have and didn’t have. To say I did would be to cheapen the faith experiences of true theists. (The tightrope I walk is in trying not to cheapen either person’s experiences…either my own or the experiences of believing friends).

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17 Comments
  1. Hm. I don’t believe in charts, I guess. Even less in God.
    TOG

  2. Very interesting chart, not withstanding a few weak spots that you’ve pointed out I, myself, would be interested in analyzing my thoughts using it. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Andrew,
    Good post.

    (1) I agree, and added “Weak” back to the intellectual options. The table is built in such a way that you can put in whatever you want (as you did) , I just offered suggestions. And I like yours. Thank you.

    (2) I added, “Disappointed” to the “Depressed” option. I think the more options in a category, the better since options are rarely dichotomous. thanks.

    (3) I like the “orthopraxy” note ! I will try to incorporate that as, “true follower” — great point.

    Again, thanks Andrew, you made me think. And that is the point of these declaration.

  4. @ Marcus
    I look forward to your post with your chart. Remember, you can always post it and slowly update it. Let me know when you post.
    — Sabio

  5. PS, I think you should put the [more] html AFTER your chart show it shows when people click on your blog.

  6. Thanks for the comments, Sabio. I decided to move the [more] tag after the chart.

    *Your updates on site make me have to update my chart.

  7. Sabio,

    I’ll do in the next couple of days, i’ve been really lazy with my blog as of late, i’ll try to let you know.

  8. Morgan-LynnGriggs Lamberth permalink

    As we ignostics find God-talk to be meaningless, there can be no God, and so we are gmostic atheists. [ Then again, I can be a Huxleyan agnostic1]
    Ignostic Morgan
    aka Carneades and skeptic griggsy amongst others. Google the latter.

  9. And all and all, one can also be considered to be annoying simply for participating in such an insipid debate, and shut the hell up. Google that. And I’m an atheist.
    TOG

  10. I have no idea what is even going on here anymore.

    My quibble with ignostics is pretty simple. While we can easily evaluate whether God-talk is meaningless or not, the simple fact is that it is not meaningless (hence, the profound amount of God-talk discussion that occurs in the first place.)

    Rather, the better ignostic position to take is one that suggests that it’s unclear what an individual person means when he or she invokes a deity (and therefore, different people could be referring to different things). However, even this isn’t all that sound. We don’t need to have hyperspecific ideas of gods to grasp common themes about deities. If we have common themes about deities, then we can address whether we find reason to believe in those common themes, and then point out that people who define god OUTSIDE of those themes are using nonstandard definitions that can safely be ignored (e.g., WHATEVER God is defined as doesn’t matter, but defining God as something like “love” doesn’t meet any common criteria. So, we can safely wave off people who define God only as love because they use a nonstandard definition.)

  11. Hey Andrew,
    Did you post your “Philosophical Declaration“, I forgot?
    I want to add it to your “Friends” Tab on my site.
    Also, you could link your “Declaration” posts in your “About Me” tab so people could learn about you quickly.
    Just an idea.

    I just looked up Ignosticism. I learned something. This is a theme I keep coming back to on my site too. Philosophy of Language is key. Epistemological stances are dependent on it. Heck, normal conversation depends on how we view language.

    A meta-discussion on language can sometimes help people discuss better !

  12. I hope to be able to “affirm” my non-theistic beliefs soon. Even though I’m not active in church, and most people I associate with daily are aware of that (except extended family and my facebook friends, crap), I don’t think most people realize I don’t believe in “God” either.

  13. Andrew- When you wrote, “Humans aren’t as rational as we’re cracked up to be.” It reminded me of this speech given by natalie babbitt. Have you read it?

    http://www.thencbla.org/boardspeeches/babbittsutherland.html

    I think you might like it… Maybe.

  14. Hypatia, I think I read that just a few days ago, and I did like it.

    …didn’t I read it from your site, actually? haha.

    Sabio, I think I skipped more questions than I answered, so I didn’t post about that. I’ll probably update my about me page later today; good idea!

  15. FireTag permalink

    I glitched at the plus sign on the life long nonbeliever entry. Does this mean you were also a non-believer in the pre-existence? 😀

  16. FireTag, I was pretty neutral in the pre-existence. You know how that went.

  17. haha. Yes you did. That’s why it’s fresh on my mind. I recently did a post on it.

    I just wanted to share it just in case you hadn’t seen it. 🙂

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