Ask An Atheist: A Strictly Negative Position?


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By Jim Downard

Hey, I’ve been a happy atheist since college and have wondered what other atheists think about this question: Is atheism strictly a “negative” position about a metaphysical/theological entity, or are there other “positive” beliefs that atheists find are implied by the lack of a God? – Kevin

Great question, Kevin. In a philosophical sense atheism is at ground a rejection of supernatural entities as informative principles, but beyond that there are many implications. 

There is an exhilaration from not having to defend the weird baggage that goes with theistic models of life, and that can remove a lot of fuss from one’s life, as well as the thoughtfulness and introspection that really thinks through how one should behave, the oughts of life that theism attempts to resolve by top down commands. Because of the comparative nature of not being a theist (examining the alternatives with the same analytical scalpel) atheism can also, in principle, foster a toleration for the drives that people can have, and a more attentive appreciation of how important secular governance is to keep those impulses in check. 

There are those more strident anti-theist atheists who strive (wrongly I think) to eradicate theism from human culture. Not only can that make them unnecessarily grumpy, but obscures the recognition that (like it or not) a tendency for theistic explanations in our human minds is part of our nature, something to be understood and managed as we have to do with our sexual and other behavioral proclivities as a social species, rather than being expunged (as it it could be).

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