Tom Gilson

To Study Atheism Is To Study Nothing?

If atheism is “not a belief,” if it has no positive affirmations, as so many Internet atheists keep saying, why do I get so many hits when I google “study atheism”? If all these atheists were right, then that would be synonymous with “study nothing.”

My favorite hit on that search is the toddler t-shirt that says, “I’d rather be studying atheism.” I get it, in fact I’ve felt that way often enough: it means, “I’d rather not be studying anything at all.”

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10 thoughts on “To Study Atheism Is To Study Nothing?

  1. Also, if you buy into their definition, atheism benefits no individual or group because it has nothing to offer. And because it has nothing to offer, the world would not be a better place if atheism was the majority position.

  2. Too often the belief that you caan have any religion and belive anything or believe nothing as som athiest say leave the spiritual map of the individual looking like a patchwork quilt when the truth is defined. #truepathways

  3. You think the sheer number of hits in a search engine lends credence to the truth of a claim? Thats called the argument of appeal to popularity.

    Try Googling “flat earth”. It comes back with 13,500,000 hits including a link to a society of people who actually believe the Earth is flat. Do you believe these people too?

  4. No, stop2wonder, that was not an appeal to popularity. The appeal to popularity is an attempt to show that something is true because a lot of people believe it. My point here is that atheism seems to be a topic that can be studied because a lot of people are studying it.

    In fact if you do the googling yourself, you’ll find that a lot of atheists are studying it, which indicates that atheists themselves seem to find it a topic with content that can be studied.

  5. Atheism is the privative, the “none of the above” category of belief. Any time fewer than 100% of people believe, there are are by definition non-believers. As such, the history of belief is and must be accompanied by a history of non-belief. How did the members of religions treat those who did not share their beliefs? Do you honestly think that is an irrelevant question for historical exploration?

    I can see why the church’s treatment of non-believers might be something believers might want to downplay, but without knowing history, one cannot learn from it.

  6. I suppose one could study atheism as a sociologist. You could also study atheism in, for example, the history of (western) philosophy. For much of history, a non-theist probably felt he/she had to be prepared to defend his/her non-belief in God. It would often have been considered a radical position. Non-theism would have set you apart from the reigning ideologies of the day, and many of the controversies–not to mention many of the daily cultural expectations.

  7. I can see why the church’s treatment of non-believers might be something believers might want to downplay, but without knowing history, one cannot learn from it.

    I can see that, too. I think it’s quite proper to acknowledge that “the church” (i.e. people in power who also believed) have done evil against people who held differing beliefs. There’s no denying this. So if we’re going to paint with such a large brush and attempt to tack those acts to all believers, then turnabout is fair play. And atheists, if nothing else, have been, by several orders of magnitude, more efficient at the slaughter. I can see how atheists might want to downplay this, however, but without knowing history, how can we learn from it?

  8. In my experience, atheism is touted as “not a belief” primarily in defense to claims that it is one. At many other times, an atheist will say things that imply (or directly state) that it does indeed involve belief (that there is no god, often along with other beliefs about life and the universe), or at least that their own atheism is characterized by such belief. I think this is where the more technical definition of atheism turns into a system of beliefs and even lifestyle, more akin to the relation between “theism” and specific theistic beliefs and practices.

  9. Nobody studies atheism. It is, as suggested, simply a state of neutrality, where one does not commit to a belief in God, usually for lack of a reason to do so.

    It really isn’t anything a all!

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