It’s really very simple. Atheists share only one common trait: absence of belief in the existence of deities. That’s all.
Time and again, theists make assertions about atheism in an attempt to place all atheists in a box. I have encountered a variety of misconceptions people have about atheists, although one in particular seems to come up most often.
I am referring to the notion that atheism claims an understanding of the origins of life and the universe, i.e. evolution, the Big Bang, etc. This manifests when atheists are asked to explain how “all this” got here, if God didn’t do it.
How do I explain it? It’s simple; I don’t. I don’t claim to have an answer to everything. I’m not ashamed to say, “I don’t know”. I see no reason to jump to irrational conclusions in the absence of answers and explanations that I understand. Atheism is not about what people know or believe, but what they don’t.
I posted this on a fellow atheist’s blog. It might help clarify my position:
Atheism is the absence of belief in the existence of deities. Period.
Knowledge or lack thereof regarding what science teaches about the origin of life and the universe need not factor in at all. I have often found the following analogy useful in explaining this:
Let’s say my house burned down, and the cause cannot be or has yet to be determined. Is it rational to conclude that a fire-breathing dragon started the fire? Of course not.
Or let’s say the cause of the fire has been determined, but I have not been informed of the cause, or simply do not understand it. Would the fire-breathing dragon hypothesis make sense then? No. It would still be silly.
So it is with science and gods:
I do not need to know or understand the origins of life and the universe in order to rule out what is clearly irrational – in this context, any number of gods.
Atheism is the absence of belief in the existence of deities. Nothing more, nothing less. When we begin tagging on other characteristics, we needlessly complicate it and lend credibility to misconceptions and prejudices regarding atheism.
Even other atheists, whom I would expect to know better, continue to promote science and atheism as some kind of package deal.
Science is a very compatible companion to atheism. People can develop a broader understanding of what science teaches about life and the universe after they are no longer blinded by faith, but scientific knowledge is not a prerequisite to atheism or necessary component of it.
I don’t need to be a fire fighter or have the slightest understanding of what can start a house fire to reasonably rule out fire-breathing dragons; I don’t need to be a scientist or have the slightest understanding about the origins of life and the universe to reasonably rule out the supernatural.
Atheism is the absence of belief in the existence of deities. This is the one characteristic we all share. Other than that, our ideas about life, the universe, politics, parenting and just about anything else vary greatly.