Friday, May 21, 2010

Setting it Straight, One More Time... ad infinitum

In yet another illustration of how the most literate and studied among us have missed the point, this morning's story by an L.A. Times reporter on the vandalism of an "Adopt A Highway" sign, sponsored by a local group of atheists, proves that the idiocy lives on.

"Atheism, broken down, means no theology. Atheists simply believe there is no God, or no evidence to support the existence of God."

To this, I wrote him this clarification:

"I wonder how much you bothered to research what atheism actually is before you wrote this piece. Atheism is the rejection of the claim of a positive belief that god(s) exist, not the assertion that no god(s) exist. It's an important distinction, the default position is a response to a claim, not a claim in and of itself, and I would hope that the press (especially the print press) would work a little harder to get it right."

To which he responded:

"Thanks for the words, Casey. For the record, my exact words were: “Atheists simply believe there is no God, or no evidence to support the existence of God.” Isn’t “rejection of the claim” similar to what I wrote, a belief (claim) there is no God? For example, I claim there was a man called Jesus; that is my belief.

Atheists claim there is no God. That is their belief."

/facepalm... and then finally:

"I still think you're not getting it. Atheists don't claim there is no God, they reject the claim of a positive belief in the existence of god(s).

Atheism is a lack of belief, not a belief. Not being a Libertarian is not a belief either. Or as we atheists jokingly analogize "bald is not a hair color."

You may be confusing the position of a "strong atheist" (one who asserts an explicit belief that there are no gods) with the position of "atheism." It would be bad precedent to set by misrepresenting the atheist position because you simply don't have a grasp of the distinction between a claim, a rejection of a claim, and a belief.

And if you aren't inclined to trust the word of "some guy from the internet," put in a phone call to someone in the philosophy department at UCLA. I'm sure they'll set you straight."

Was I too heavy-handed there? Too snarkey? We report, you decide.

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