hile strolling through the sunny woods one day, you spy a man slithering through the undergrowth, heavily camouflaged and gripping a bow and arrow.
“What are you hunting?” you ask.
“Dragons!” hisses the man proudly.
You frown. “Dragons? But dragons don’t exist!”
The man nods emphatically. “I completely agree with you! There ain’t no such thing as dragons. And I’m a-gonna shoot me one!” He raises his bow and arrow, narrows his eyes and glares through the trees, hungry to target the non-existent.
At this point, you would surely take a series of slow and steady steps backwards, aiming to put some safer distance between you and a deranged man wielding a bow and arrow.
This is one of the many, many challenges of atheism.
“Atheism” is a terrible word on many levels.
The Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition, defines atheism as:
“Disbelief in, or denial of, the existence of a god.”
To any modern, rational thinker, this is an entirely unsatisfactory definition – which is exactly what you expect from a word originally defined by theists.
First of all, the OED definition implies that there is something personal in the rational rejection of a god. “Denial” is a word associated with defensive rejections of reality, such as Holocaust denier, climate change denier – or the generic avoidance of unpalatable emotional truths: “He’s in denial about her drinking.”
Compare the above definition to this one:
“Atheism: The acceptance of the non-existence of imaginary entities such as Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and Bronze Age sky ghosts.”
The difference should be clear.
Also, why is the phrase “a god” used? If I say that supernatural beings such as leprechauns do not exist, why would anyone imagine that I only disbelieved in a single leprechaun named “Bob”?
Rational thinkers have nothing against any particular deity – any more than a mathematician dislikes in particular the proposition that two and two make five. If such a mathematician existed, and loudly proclaimed his opposition to that particular equation, and founded a society called “against two and two making five,” he would be considered beyond eccentric, and it would be generally understood that he had utterly failed to grasp the most basic principles of mathematics...
Against the Gods?
A critical examination of agnosticism, atheism and religion.
Publication date: 22/11/2010
An examination of agnosticism by Stefan Molyneux, MA
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