Well, that was interesting.
I wrote earlier about being an atheist and my quest for answers to my questions about god. With few exceptions what I got were not god related answers. What I got were a bunch of people who I know to be Christians denying that they were Christians at all, or more to the point, denying that they were like other Christians.
I mention this because I am about to say that I am not like other atheists.
I am not like other atheists.
Well, I am, but only in two very basic ways: I am human. I don’t believe in god (or gods or God). There is no other defining characteristic of an atheist. In fact, it is a bit of a misnomer to call someone an atheist in the first place. Why does not believing in god carry its own moniker? I have a theory, which I will get to in a second. But first, there is no term for people who disbelieve in unicorns, dragons, Santa Clause or other mythical creatures/beings. Except maybe the term “adult” except even children can disbelieve in these things and frequently do. So why do atheists have their own inclusive group name? I think because of Christians, and the Christianity dominated world. The numbers vary, but the largest religious group on the planet is Christianity. Around 33% of the world is Christian. Another third is Islam and Buddhism combined. (I got my facts from a quick Googling. Don’t crucify me over inaccurate data. I’m not writing a scientific paper here. Close enough for gov’ment I always say.) Everyone else is some smaller religion or no religion at all. So Christians name us atheists because they have a god dominated world view and define the world in terms of their religion. “Atheist” then is a Christian term, not a secular term. There is no secular term. We simply don’t believe. We call ourselves people.
It amuses me that Christians frequently deny being Christians, or deny being like other Christians. Look, I get it. Even I am lumping Catholics and Protestants together under the moniker “Christian” so I know there are differences there, but they all believe similar things, with only, being honest, minor differences. You believe in one God not named Allah, and his son Jesus Christ, you are a Christian. Pure and simple. Christians have churches and in America, at least, don’t pay taxes as a group. Sunnis and Shi’ites are both still Muslims (though I am not familiar enough with Islam to know the difference). For that matter, Muslims say that Allah is the same god as the Christian god. They also believe in Jesus. Practically speaking, from the “atheist” point of view, 2/3 of the world believes in the same god and that god’s son. To say otherwise is silly because the run of the mill atheist doesn’t bother about trivial doctrinal differences within or between religions. In the same way, each family that does the Santa Clause thing has their own little take on Santa, but they don’t really make a big deal when one kid says something a little different about the jolly old guy. (Or is he an elf? Some versions of the myth say he is. You get my point.)
Me saying I am an atheist is not an attempt to identify with any world group. I’m just a person. But I am helping my Christian friends know how to classify me according to their world view. I could just as well call myself an apostate or a non-believer, but technically, Christians are apostate to the other 2/3 of the planet. Ultimately, I use atheist as a convenient term. But it remains a religious term. I just prefer to call myself a person, really.
Of the people who didn’t immediately clamor “but I am not a Christian like 1/3 of the planet” one was a Christian and one was a fellow person. The Christian actually didn’t try to use any evidence to convince me of anything. She actually agreed with me that faith is believing in God outside of direct evidence, and that she believes because of her personal experiences with God. Fair enough, as personal experience is not evidence. The fellow person and I had a discussion about religion being a culture phenomenon (when you really get down to it) and that science should remain free of any religious bias. Again, fair enough. Religion typically is not provable or disprovable by science. It isn’t even in the same category of thing. There is not way to marry science and religion, really. I appreciated both view points, but probably loved the Christian’s more. It is so refreshing to have a Christian not argue from the Bible or some theological doctrine, but simply to say, “Yes, I believe and that is a personal thing. In order to believe, it must be personal for you as well.”
But I still want to know what compels a Christian, or a Muslim for that matter, to believe in a god at all, and why, if they believe, they feel the need to serve a god. I’m still asking those questions.