Why I don’t call myself an atheist

FRIDAY, 27 APRIL 2012

I do not call myself an atheist, for the simple reason that the onus will be on me to define what I do not believe in.

If I were to call myself an atheist, I would be arguing that I do not believe in something, that I reject the existence of all gods, including “God”. The question is then: What exactly do I reject? What exactly do I not believe in?

Seeing that I will have to rely on other people’s descriptions of their gods, other people’s definitions of “God”, I would only be able to say that I do not believe in one specific person’s god.

Will that make me an atheist? Then a Christian is an atheist from the perspective of the Hindu or Muslim! Then one Christian can even call another Christian whose concept of God differs slightly from his own an atheist!

Fact of the matter is, people only think everyone in their group believes in the same god because they recite the same confessions. But if one person refers to God as “my dear heavenly Daddy”, I can almost guarantee you that their god is not really, deep in their subconscious, the same as the god many of their fellow believers profess to believe in.

So if I say I am an atheist, in whose god do I not believe? Whose god do I reject?

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What is the alternative, if I have to categorise myself for the sake of identification?

According to Wikipedia, agnosticism is the view that the truth of certain claims is unknown or by nature impossible to prove. These claims include metaphysical claims relating to theology, the afterlife or existence of gods, spirits, or even ultimate reality.

This, by definition, does not mean I do not believe in gods, spirits or even a specific ultimate reality. It does mean that I do not believe I nor anyone else can prove the definitive truth of these statements.

Of course, many Hindus believe this to be nonsense: they can point to the personal experiences of millions of people that prove to them that Krishna really exists. Same with followers of any other religious tradition. The ability of any person with a firm intention and an established interest in a particular view to find evidence for something that they believe can never be underestimated.

As for my own position, I can say without thinking twice that I find value in doubt. I find value in asking questions. I consider it worthwhile to wonder rather than to claim that I know, and to summarily declare the discussion to be over. Lastly, I place too much value on intelligent discourse between reasonable people to reject outright what anyone says.

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