Atheist Theology

Epistemology:

What counts as knowledge?  How do you decide what is true?

Ethics:

What are your meta-ethic positions?  What are your ethical standards?

Hermeneutics:

How do you approach Biblical texts, Muslim texts and the like?

Goyology:

What are your beliefs, attitudes and behaviors towards others outside your group?
See my definition here.

Theory of Religion:

What is your definition of religion?  Why do religions exist?  How do religions evolve or change?

Christology:

Who was Jesus?

Missionology:

Should atheism be preached?  How?  What style?  What do you feel about confronting others who disagree with you?

Ecclesiology:

Should Atheists organize themselves? How should Atheists organize themselves? How do you feel about Atheist organizations?

Cosmology:

How did the universe begin?  Are their other universes?  What is the universe composed of.

Soteriology1:

Can you improve yourself?  How do you better yourself?  Why should you better yourself?

Eschatology2:

What should humans strive for?  Where is humanity going?

    Why Atheist Theology?

    We often see it debated whether Atheism is a religion or a worldview.  It is put forward that Atheism is simply the belief that there is no evidence for the existence of gods or spirits.  But Atheists are people who have opinions (systematized or not) about wider views which are entailed with this belief.  If nothing else, the same methods, insights, feelings or beliefs that led them to be atheists probably feed these wider views.  And to be catchy, I call this wider view their “Theology”.   Sure, one could say there are as many Atheist Theologies as their are atheists, but one could say the same of Christians. “Atheist Theology” is simply a tool to ponder our positions on the issues above and how our atheism connects to them.

    Trying to systematize your philosophy can be a very informative process.  I think it would be cool if atheist sites had a page that listed their theology. This would facilitate dialogue between atheists and theists and also between atheists themselves.  I don’t feel everyone is responsible for systematizing their beliefs, but in the blogosphere, such an effort would be revealing !

    Please comment and I will modify this list as we go along.

    ——————————————
    Notes:

    1.   OK, “Soteriology” usually deals with how your survive death or how you are “saved” from a bad fate after death, but this seems as close as an Atheist can get to this question.  And these are good questions.

    2.  Ok, I have changed the normal meaning of  “Eschatology”,  but I think you can see the relatedness of the questions I have listed.

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    8 Comments

    Filed under Critical Thinking, Ethics, Philosophy & Religion

    8 responses to “Atheist Theology

    1. Atheism is neither a religion nor a worldview, atheism is simply the answer to a single question: do you believe in a god. If you answer yes, you are a theist, if you answer anything else, you are an atheist. Atheism, like theism, is a top-level category, you can further break it down into reasons why someone believes or does not believe something, just like you can break theism down into various religions and further into various sects, but when you’re talking about atheism, there’s nothing else to discuss. Any other opinions or beliefs that individual atheists might have are largely irrelevant because they fall outside the strict pervue of atheism itself, it’s no more relevant what an individual atheist thinks about religion than it is what an individual theist thinks about stamp collecting. It becomes an entirely personal opinion, nothing more.

      However, I’m happy to answer your questions, not as an atheist, but as a human being with opinions.

      1) What counts as knowledge? It depends on what you mean by knowledge, of course. I would only consider objective knowledge, things that can be tested by a wide range of individuals and found to be widely consistent, then one could consider it knowledge. The subjective, I would call belief because it isn’t testable. A drunk might see pink elephants, should we consider that to be knowledge or belief? I know which one I pick. We decide what is true based on the objective support a proposition has, it can really only be based on evidence, logic, reason and critical thinking and is always open to revision as we learn more.

      2) My ethical standards are the same as everyone else’s, even theists, I simply acknowledge where they really come from, which is within. Humans are inherently social creatures and as such, in order to live within social structures we need to be able to empathize with those around us and recognize that if we want to be treated a certain way, we need to treat others the same way. Reciprocal living is essential to surviving within social groups and that comes entirely from humanity itself, not from some fanciful deity. In fact, there really are no possible logical arguments one can make which would make sense of a deity-given morality. It all falls apart under even the most cursory scrutiny.

      3) I approach the texts as I would any other book, with higher criticism. What is contained in the Bible is a story. It may contain fragments of history, fragments of mythology, fragments of entire fantasy, etc. Just because it contains some historical facts does not mean, by any means, that all of it is historical. Every claim made in any holy book is evaluated just like any other claim and accepted or rejected solely on the basis of the evidence for it.

      4) It’s hard to answer because there isn’t a single criteria upon which to make a value judgement. I don’t automatically exclude theists from my “in-group” nor do I automatically include atheists. I’d reject people like Madelyn Murray O’Hair and Fred Phelps on the same basis, they’re both hate-mongering asshats. I’ll admit that I’d be a lot more likely to reject fundamentalist theists, simply because they have a fundamental flaw in their thinking skills, I’d also reject non-religious flat-earthers, alien conspiracy nuts and the like on the same basis. Religion in and of itself is not a deciding factor, only the ability to reason behind it.

      5) Religions exist because people are afraid, people want assurance and they are willing to turn to flat-out fantasy to get that comfort. Organized religions exist because these people get together and form larger groupings of people with common beliefs. Religions change like any other human social organization, with a few exceptions. There are some elements that, even if proven conclusively wrong, religions will hold onto because they form the core of their belief structures and to reject them is to reject the entire religion out of hand.

      6) We really have no solid evidence that Jesus was a real person, but assuming for the sake of argument that he was, we still have no reason to believe that he said any of the things that are recorded in the Bible, he left no direct evidence of his own existence and the supposed “eye-witness accounts” are all contradictory. Even granting all of the above however, it’s likely that Jesus was one of a myriad of itinerant preachers that were on every street corner in Palestine at the time, he was certainly nothing unique, he just made it big posthumously due to the embellishments of his followers.

      7) There’s nothing to preach in atheism. At best, you can “preach” rationality, logic and critical thinking, reliance on objective evidence, etc. but that doesn’t necessarily equate to atheism, it only reasonably leads there. Personally, I don’t care what anyone believes so long as their beliefs do not negatively impact myself, my family or my society. What you do in the privacy of your church is your business.

      8) There’s really no point in “organizing” atheists, it’s like herding cats. Certainly, I think atheists ought to “come together” to defeat rampant religionism from being pushed into law, but beyond that, we’re like non-stamp-collectors, we’re our own people who just happen to share a common thing we don’t do.

      9) There’s no evidence that the universe started anything but entirely naturally. It’s true that we don’t have a good handle on what happened before the Big Bang, we know, based on strong objective evidence, just about everything that happened a milisecond thereafter. However, the fact that we don’t know only means we don’t know. Just because you don’t know something doesn’t give you license to just make something up, which is what theists do.

      10) Of course you can improve yourself, you’re the only one that can. You better yourself by being a more intelligent, responsible and rational person, continually learning and growing, it makes your life better and the lives of those around you, it improves your chances and opportunities and it increases the chances of your family to a better life. In relation to your footnote, nobody can survive death and so far as the evidence goes, there is nothing after death, so spending your life shivering in fear of something you cannot avoid is entirely foolish on the face of it.

      11) What should we strive for? A better world for all of us, an advancement of humanity both on this planet and beyond, a better understanding of the reality that we all share and a better respect for our actual place in it. Where might we be right now if not for the ruinous interference of thousands of years of religion?

      If you have any questions about any of those, feel free to ask.

    2. Theology implies having a positive theory about the nature of God. Atheists might have philosophical commitments, but it’s just confusing to call what they might or might not believe “theologies” when they don’t believe in any concepts of God to begin with, let alone defend particular concepts.

    3. Cephus: Excellent, thank you ! I will be able to use this information later. I hope others feel free to do similar.

      Drew: You inspired me to write a whole post. Thank you !

    4. A Free Spirit

      [deleted for comment policy violation – C1,5]

    5. Very interesting blog. I’m a member of our local Unitarin Universalist Congregation: http://uua.org/. I have recently started an adult discussion group called, “Atheism as a spiritual path.” I’ll check back and see your conversation comes along. If anything particularly interested is said at our meeting, I’ll bring it here too!

      bitchspot’s comments were interesting, however, I think that it is relevant whether someone is theist or atheist for reasons that most atheists fail to consider. Many theists believe on any given day that god has a plan for them…they believe that when “bad” things happen, it is part of god’s plan.

      No such comfort exists for atheists! By virtue of not believing in any god or gods, we have a different world view than most theists (at least in the USA).

    6. @ Migg
      Thanx for visiting. Hope you stop in on other posts.
      I find “Atheism as a Spiritual Path” rather odd because I see my Atheism as a mere epiphenomena. Please see this post.
      BTW: “B****Spot” disappeared from this blog a long time ago — a very angry fellow.

    7. Rick Cuppelman

      I wish I were surrounded by more like mined people like yourself! I wasn’t raised in a religious upbringing. So I have been open minded most of my life, to different theories of life and how we came to be where we are today as a people. I believe logic rules supreme in every aspect of life!

      I was born in Baltimore, MD where most are excepted for there own individuality, A kind of live and let live society, Now I reside in Southern Virginia, the land of a thousand churches, where I constantly fall under attack by religious fanatics that can’t be realistic what so Ever!!! Anyone thinking outside the realm of religion is looked at like a crazy person. To them there is only one way of thinking and they were born into it! And they only have one mission, CONVERTING THE WORLD! It is so tiring!

    8. @ Rick: Thanx for dropping in. It can be hard to live in the Bible Belt when you aren’t a believer.

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