So, what is that script A?

So, yes, that big red "A" on the top right of my entry-level web page (www.ne9et.net/index.html) indicates that I accept the label of "atheist" without apology (not needed) or pride (not warranted). However, since that term of art is not well understood in general, I provide here a brief tutorial on what that means, exactly. I also explain why describing myself as an "agnostic atheist" is in fact eminently sensible, and not—as some might suppose—a contradiction in terms [1]. Finally, I explain why just calling me an atheist is not a particularly useful label.

What is atheism about?

It should be really simple: atheism is the lack of belief in a god or gods. It often extends to a lack of belief in other "supernatural" entities with supposed god-like powers, such as angels, devils, werewolves, leprechauns, Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, what have you. But "belief" can be a slippery term.

I "believe" the sun will rise [2} tomorrow, by which I indicate that my understanding of astronomy and extensive experience gives me confidence that tomorrow there'll be sun (apologies to the musical Annie). I also believe that science is the best method we humans have for understanding of the world. It has proven its value repeatedly, and though it progresses at times in fits and starts, it does tend to home in on reality rather effectively. Science has proved its worth. I like reality.

That's it. Despite the best efforts of theistic apologists over the years, I have encountered no evidence that would lead me to believe that a god, or multiple god-like beings, have an existence outside the imaginations of the theists. I describe myself also as a skeptic (sceptic, occasionally in England), which is also a term often misunderstood, and also ill-defined in some dictionaries. As a skeptic, I do not habitually reject ideas out of hand; I merely require solid evidence for them. As has been well said, "that which is asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence." And accepting the existence of extraordinary beings would require extraordinary evidence. If such irrefutable evidence were to emerge, I would not hesitate to believe. I'm not holding my breath on that one, though.

I should not have to add, but will, that I do not mean to imply by the above that all skeptics are necessarily atheists. I will freely acknowledge that there are people who claim to possess the type of extraordinary evidence that leads them to be theists (or perhaps deists [3] ). I am happy for them. I'm just not one of them.

What's an agnostic atheist?

Isn't an agnostic something other than an atheist? Like someone who is unsure about this god thing? In short, no. The terms "atheist" and "agnostic" address distinct ideas. As mentioned above, an atheist lacks belief in gods. In general, atheists will not assert positively that they know that there are no gods (though some may hold that view). Those who claim to know some idea with surety can be said to be "gnostic" with respect to that idea. Anyone else is agnostic. A theist can be agnostic just as easily as an atheist. Just not as often.

Although I know of no evidence for gods, I also cannot claim that there are (is) none. In part this is because there are so dang many of them. Evidence for non-existence is notoriously difficult to get. I don't believe in the Loch Ness monster, and have good reason [4] to expect there is no such being—at least as commonly described—but I would hesitate to claim certain knowledge of its non-existence; and that's a rather well-defined creature, both in general attributes and precise location. Even among Christians, much less god believers worldwide, there is little agreement [5] about the nature and intentions of the being they call their God. To the point of calling each other "heretics."

So not wanting to waste what life I have trying with great difficulty to try to disprove all of the world's gods, I take the position that I can't know with any certainty that somewhere there may be a being worthy of being called a god. Without any evidence for one either, I admit freely that I don't know. There is much that I don't know, and I don't worry myself over much about that. I live my life as best I can.

Is any of this relevant?

In my opinion no. There are many who would beg to differ. Some would even declare me as evil for not accepting their god, and thus worthy of eternal torment. Somehow, I think that any god who would do that would not be worthy of any respect, much less of worship.

It all comes down to the fact that "atheist" is a flimsy label. It says little of any importance about people: merely that they lack something. It may not be apparent in the United States, but there are a lot of people worldwide who have the same lack, and for many of the same reasons. To understand me, one might observe some positive characteristics.

I have great respect and empathy for all humans, to the extent that they have respect and empathy for others. I know many exemplary people who sincerely and deeply believe in their god, and do not disparage them for that belief. I just ask the same from them for my lack of belief. I have spent many hours, many weeks and months even, helping others through the activities mentioned on my home page among others. To the best of my knowledge, I have never intentionally hurt any one; if I have, I sincerely regret that failing, and would do all I could to make amends.

In short, I try to live a moral life, without any hope of reward short of the regard of my fellow humans who have known me. Nor do I have to fear extraordinary punishment to avoid doing injury to others. I would not do to others what I would not wish done to me (this is the inverse Golden Rule).

Have more questions?

This web page is limited to an overview of what being an atheist means to me. There are many questions asked of atheists, some of which may be of interest to you. As a start, you might want to read this list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about atheism from the Quora web site. Or perhaps this FAQ from the Atheist Community of Austin TX. As stated in both, there is only one thing one can say with certainty about any atheist: lack of a belief in god(s).


Footnotes:
[1]
Likewise, I self describe as a "conservative liberal." Anyone who thinks that is a contradiction clearly does not understand the meaning of at least one of those terms. For example, any soi-disant conservative who advocates changing the US Constitution to deny others' rights is a raging oxymoron. Not to mention an every day one.
[2]
By which I mean that the earth will with near certainty continue to rotate on its axis, and that the sun by all that is known of stars of its size will continue to shine for the next few billion years, and that the earth will still be in orbit around the sun for as long as humans are likely to inhabit this planet. At least until tomorrow. No supernatural agency is required to assure this end.
[3]
A deist is one who believes in a creator god, who then bows out of its creation, and does not subsequently have any effect on it. Such a god definitely does not answer prayers. Or dictate books.
[4]
The Loch Ness monster is reported to be a rather large reptilian animal. Loch Ness itself (I've been there) is one of the largest in Scotland, but is still rather puny by comparison with any of the Great Lakes, for example. Not only would there be a food supply problem for even a single such beast—and massive evidence of predation—but for there to be a sustained breeding population of them (at least several hundred) they would overflow the area, and one would likely be seen daily. Also every supposed photograph of Nessie is known to be a fake. Color me skeptical.
[5]
Is the Christian god one or a trinity? Mormons have been declared Christian on high authority, yet there is a no more polytheistic religion to be found, they have no hell and have three levels of heaven. Doesn't sound much like a Baptist to me. Does the Christian god require acceptance of Jesus as one's personal savior to get into (the one) heaven, or does one merely have to behave according to the rules (which ones?), and ask forgiveness when one strays? Opinions differ.