In the last episode of Stupid Atheists! (or A Completely Impartial and Objective Look at the Bogus Things Stupid People Say About Atheism) I addressed church/state separation and stated that I though politicians had a responsibility to make decisions based on established science, logic and reason. I justified this by saying that any such decisions could then be logically supported (or refuted) and would be open to change or modification if new evidence was presented.

On reflection, I think that this statement might benefit from further clarification.

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This episode of Stupid Atheists! (or A Completely Impartial and Objective Look at the Bogus Things Stupid People Say About Atheism) will look at:

“Stupid Atheists! You can’t separate church and state, because everyone has their own ideology and religious people can’t leave their belief out of their decisions any more than any one else!”

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Welcome to part one of Stupid Atheists! (or A Completely Impartial and Objective Look at the Bogus Things Stupid People Say About Atheism).

And tonight our first contestant is:

“Hey man! Atheism is just another religion! Believing there is no god is just as reliant on faith as believing that there is one! Stupid Atheist!”

Well, the first problem with this proposition is that it’s a strawman, because atheism is not belief in the non-existence of god. Atheism would be more clearly defined as the lack of belief in god. One is an assertion of belief, the other is and assertion of no belief. That might sound like a fine distinction (and that perception is not helped by people saying one when they mean the other) so I’ll try and clarify with an example.

Okay, so if I say “Wah! Wah! I don’t believe the Easter Bunny exists!” then in order to have moved from the default state of “no belief” to “some quantity of belief greater than zero”, the non-existence of the Easter Bunny must be:

  1. Justified by proof, or
  2. Supported by a scientific theory*,or
  3. Taken on faith

Well, you can’t prove a negative, so in lieu of a well tested supporting theory this “belief” would have to be largely based on faith.

Alternatively, I might say “You stupid Bunny-ists. I have no belief in your magic floppy eared dispenser of chocolate fertility symbols”. Having no belief is the default state, so lacking compelling evidence** of the Easter Bunny’s existence, maintenance of that lack of belief is a completely reasonable position. See the difference? One statement requires evidence or faith, the other is the default position and can only be made less reliable by contrary evidence.

Even if atheism was based on faith, it would be somewhat disingenuous to suggest that belief in god was in any way equivalent to belief in no god, because the world we observe is entirely what we would expect if there was no god. The burden of proof lies heavily on the god peddler.

“But there are things you can’t explain Stupid Atheist! If Almighty God didn’t do it, then what did?!”

Sigh. This is usually referred to as the god of the gaps argument, and is a false dichotomy logical fallacy. However, for the sake of this example we will temporarily suspend reality and pretend that the argument has some small merit. Now, when we look back through history we see a constant progression of things that science could not explain at the time, for which we later found completely natural explanations.

Bearing this weight of precedent in mind, if faced with gaps in human knowledge is it more reasonable to postulate that:

  1. There are perfectly natural processes that explain the gap – we just don’t understand them yet? Or
  2. There is an omni-present, omni-potent and omni-benevolent sky fairy managing things.

Hmm. Occam’s Razor anyone? I mean hello.

So to sum up – atheists do not have a belief in the non-existence of god and even if they did, the burden of proof leans the other way. Non-existence is supported by the observable universe, while the existence of magical super-being is an extraordinary claim and as such requires equally extraordinary evidence to justify it.

Atheism is about what we can see when dogma and faith are taken out of the equation.

Atheism is not a religion.

* By scientific theory, I am referring to an explanatory model that is falsifiable and makes accurate testable predictions. “I have a theory, it could be bunnies” is not a scientific theory.
** When I say convincing evidence, I mean evidence that is scientifically or logically compelling. Anecdotal evidence isn’t.