On 5 December 2014, I posted the fruits of my emergence of atheistic belief… or rather my lack of theistic belief. Naturally, I offended people. The absurdity of that astonishes me. In the course of this, I am writing this response to all of them. I won’t use names, as no one made posts on my Facebook post itself, but in private messages. That and many of the messages were very similar.
One of the first statements people had was that I was entitled to my faith. Yeah, I know the First Amendment. However, saying that atheism is a faith (here “faith” is being used to mean religion) is like saying that bald is a hairstyle. Some say that I am arrogant for saying there is no god. Atheism is a lack of faith; a lack of belief. I am making NO positive claims. In other words, I am not saying there is no god, or gods, but that I just don’t believe in any of them. Of course the most common response to that is, “Eric, I don’t just believe in a god but THE GOD!!!” Yeah, and the Zoroastrians, Hindus, the Baha’i, Mahayana Buddhists, don’t say the same. To say that yours is the only god is arrogance.
The statement I made about faith being used to justify atrocity, began a riot. The reason, for the riot is actually a benign one. One based on amphiboly. I was using the term faith in a singular definition, which I gave: “The belief in something without evidence”. Some people took my use of faith to mean “religious belief”. Do you see the discrepancy here? While the first definition is necessary for the second, the reverse is not necessary. Thus, the two definitions are not interchangeable. When I said that atrocities are due to faith, I meant the concept of belief without evidence. It matters not if the belief is in a person, such as Vladimir Lenin, or a deity, such as Ahura Mazda.
A second part of that is people would point out atrocities committed by “secular” leaders. Hitler, naturally, tops the list. However, Hitler was a Catholic, and the Papacy actively turned a blind eye to Hitler’s Germany. Hitler stated many times his Christian beliefs, and even mandated that religious instruction and prayer remain a part of public education. “But Eric, no Christian would ever do what Hitler did! He wasn’t a true Christian!” This is a No True Scotsman fallacy. Basically, the fallacy is to not include those who, by definition fit within a framework, but are undesirable for other reasons. For instance, Mr. Wallace from Edinburgh reads about a pedophile/mass murderer in the paper. “He must be Welsh, because no Scotsman would ever do that,” Wallace says. When he reads the article, he finds out that the murderer was born and raised in Edinburgh, like his father and mother, and theirs as well. “Well no true Scotsman would ever do this,” concludes Mr. Wallace.
Stalin is also on that list. I’ll lump all of the Communist leaders together. Karl Marx’s statement that “religion is the opiate of the masses”, is often taken out of context by theists and atheists as well. What Marx meant by opiate, is not an intoxicant, but a pain reliever. Life was hard for most people in the newly industrialized world that Marx wrote in. In fact, in the best working conditions were similar to what we would condemn as sweatshops now. Medical care was a joke (and dangerous), and education was not accessible to anyone but the elite. Couple this with rampant sexism and racism, which was just as much based on ancestry as skin color. For many people, the church gave then hope through their suffering. Marx’s comment was that through his system, all of those bad things would go away, and thus the church would be unnecessary. Personally, I think this is another example of Marx’s naivety, for there are other factors he didn’t consider, but I digress.
Vladimir Lenin twisted Marx’s work on many points. On religion, Lenin determined that in order for communism to work, religion had to be replaced with the state. Let that sink in. The state replaced the church, and the leader of the state would be the godhead. This is what is called the Cult of Personality. Pol Pot, Stalin, David Karesh, Joseph Smith, Lenin, Mao tse Tung, Jim Jones all fostered the same phenomenon. This phenomenon of the cult of personality has nothing to do with religion, but belief without evidence.
I am an avowed skeptic. What is a skeptic? A skeptic is not someone who disbelieves, but a skeptic is someone that uses logic to look for evidence before believing in something. The evidence for OR against god is non-existent, so the skeptic will say, “I don’t know”. However, since he, or she, does not know, AND there is sufficient explanations to various phenomenon without evoking a deity, the skeptic will not believe in a deity. Belief requires action, so while in an epistemology view belief is irrelevant to reality, to the larger society it matters, as people’s beliefs, be it the Humanistic view, or sharia law, are forced upon others through law at the point of the gun.