Wednesday, July 18, 2007


It is interesting how even now, when someone says he or she is an atheist, even friends who are not atheists say that they "respect his opinion" and that he is "entitled to his opinion". I keep getting miffed that atheism is regarded as just another position on matters. But of course this is strange. Do sensible people recognise people who don't believe that Lee Harvey Oswald killed JFK alone as having their own position on the matter. Do people recognise people who believe that the Holocaust never happened as being entitled to their own well-defined opinion? And why don't they do this? Because of a little something called lack of good evidence. I remember how Dr. Shreeram Lagoo, the well-known actor was always touted as an atheist, but more as making some kind of fashion statement, as if he was a quaint old atheist among a society of Hindus, Muslims, Christians and what not. Of course, Hindus usually don't take atheism seriously, but even they simply bin atheists as having their own worldview, just as conservatives and liberals slot each other into people with differing world views.

To some extent, this binning is not surprising, since human beings like to label each other for the sake of convenience. But atheism is different because unlike any political or religious sect, it is not founded on any system of beliefs, but on a lack of belief. Naturally, there are always some beliefs that everyone has, but atheists' beliefs are not based on any other axiom about the world, except on the premise that one usually should not believe something for which there is no good evidence. As I mentioned in an earlier post, this system of 'beliefs' is no different than the system that we all without exception observe in order to believe elementary facts about the world, such that the train will be late by half an hour, or that your spouse is not cheating on you. In some ways, even the world "atheist" is puzzling, because as Noam Chomsky memorably said, "I don't call myself an atheist because I am not sure what it is exactly that I am not supposed to believe in".

I think that along with their writings against religion, atheists (there we go again) need to also constantly make this point clear, that they don't belong to any particular sect at all, and theirs is not another point of view. For the above mentioned reasons, being called an atheist or being told that I like to read "atheist literature" sometimes sounds almost insulting to me.



Blogger Vivek Gupta said...

So Lee Harvey Oswald did not kill JFK alone? I thought this was another conspiracy theory manufactured by the likes of Oliver Stone.

10:24 AM  
Blogger Kapilmuni said...

So 'atheism' is not a position or a stand or a world view? What is it then?

True atheists do not belong to any conventional 'sect' or 'cult' in the same sense as religious sects. But that does not mean that atheism is NOT a considered and coherent set of ideas - a point of view. And since Atheism juxtaposes itself against and theism and has all its focus on rejecting theism - it is indeed a point of view about religion (albeit NOT a religious point of view).

The shoe fits dude, er, sorry, man, . . the shoe fits man, wear it!!

11:06 PM  

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