Wednesday, June 25, 2008

How Antitheism Differs from Atheism

The two most common terms to describe non-believers are "Atheist" and "Agnostic", although in my mind the line between the two is blurred somewhat by the fact that both atheists and agnostics lack a belief in god:
Atheist: Someone who denies the existence of god.

Agnostic: A person who claims that they cannot have true knowledge about the existence of god (but does not deny that god might exist).
As for me, I prefer the term "Antitheist", which means:
Active opposition to the belief in the existence of a God
There's a great page up on Wikipedia that goes into depth on how antitheism differs from atheism.

The basic gist, however, is that an antitheist is actively opposed to the idea of god and the religions that spring from once people start believing in god. As Wikipedia puts it:
Antitheism may be adopted as a label by those who take the view that theism is destructive.
This is where I come out. I don't just lack a belief in god, I actively subscribe to the idea that a belief in god and religion is inherently destructive and causes untold suffering.

Here's Christopher Hitchens:
I'm not even an atheist so much as I am an antitheist; I not only maintain that all religions are versions of the same untruth, but I hold that the influence of churches, and the effect of religious belief, is positively harmful.

Thoughts on Atheism

More from an email exchange today, this time on the question of whether atheism has a "belief system":
My view is that atheism is a rejection of a belief system rather than a belief system in and of itself.

Theism is defined as "The doctrine or belief in the existence of a God or gods".

Atheism is defined as "A lack of belief in the existence of God or gods"

I prefer the term Antitheism as it applies to me: "Active opposition to the belief in the existence of a God." (or, in the words of the always amusing Urban Dictionary: "Militantly opposed to religious bulls**t(ers) and their prolongation of human conflict and lack of moral concern.")

My status as an Antitheist doesn't carry any beliefs along with it, per se. I am just fundamentally opposed to systematized irrational magical thinking that causes untold suffering (i.e. religion).

Thought of the Day

I posted this to a listserve recently and thought I'd pass it along.
My own personal opinion is that theists hate atheists largely because their crippled rational faculties see a latent part of themselves reflected in us -- the part of the human mind that craves curiosity, logic, proof, support and substance. Because they have given themselves over to irrational faith in a magic being, our staunch refusal to let the power of our own rational minds be thus squelched holds up a painful mirror in testament to their capitulation.

Monday, June 23, 2008

McEwan: 'I despise Islamism'


Today the Booker-winning novelist Ian McEwan found himself at the centre of an uncharacteristic row.

During an interview with an Italian newspaper, the author launched a stinging attack on Islamism, saying he despised it and that it wanted 'to create a society that I detest.'


'As soon as a writer expresses an opinion against Islamism, immediately someone on the left leaps to his feet and claims that because the majority of Muslims are dark-skinned, he who criticises it is racist.

"This is logically absurd and morally unacceptable. Martin is not a racist.

'And I myself despise Islamism, because it wants to create a society that I detest, based on religious belief, on a text, on lack of freedom for women, intolerance towards homosexuality and so on – we know it well.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Catholic Church's Abuse Cover-Up

A good piece of reporting by Andrew Sullivan on the Catholic Church's cover-up of credible and well-known instances of abuse by the leader of a far-right Catholic cult. Good for Andrew to face up to the kinds of evil institutionalized religion can visit upon its flock. Too bad he still thinks that the Church deserves his devotion.
If you want to know how the current Pope handled very credible, very well-documented and overwhelming evidence that a very powerful associate had long been a child-abuser, check this clip out:

The abuse-case that caused the Pope to lose his temper - to the point of a prissy smack - was Father Marcial Maciel. Until his death earlier this year, Maciel ran a large, far-right Catholic cult called the Legionaries of Christ. The Legionaries and their lay counterpart, Regnum Christi, are very powerful entities in the new Catholicism, given special protection by Pope John Paul II and much favor under his successor. And at the core of the Legionaries, like many religious cults, was a sexual abuse ring designed to please the founder. Secrecy was maintained by indoctrinating many members at a young age, and enforcing vows of silence on all topics related to Maciel. This cult-like stricture is still causing grief and suspicion in many parts of the Catholic world, most recently in the Baltimore archdiocese.

The reason I bring this up today is because journalist Jason Berry, of the Hartford Courant, has a new and gripping documentary on Maciel and the abusive cult-like practices he pioneered. It's called "Vows Of Silence" and it carefully exposes the appalling facts of the enmeshment of the last two Popes in covering up sexual abuse and protecting a serial predator.

Maciel was a sadly twisted gay man, who committed many acts of abuse, pederasty and pedophilia against other men and boys under his control. He is also a hero to the theoconservative movement, the leaders of which have yet to come to terms with his appalling record.

Much of this the Vatican eventually conceded - but never held Maciel fully accountable for, part from asking him in his final years to recede from public view. More to the point: Maciel's abuse was known to Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI for years, and they did nothing about it. The Maciel case is important because it reveals the current and former Pope to be knowing, conscious protectors of a child abuser and shows how the sick sexual dysfunction at the heart of the Catholic hierarchy was abetted and fomented at the very, very top. Here's the movie trailer. I watched the film the other night and even after following this issue for years, was shocked at the gravity and specificity of the charges. The theocons still deny Maciel's guilt, of course. But many of them have long stopped valuing truth over power.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Higher IQ = Less Belief in God

We need more studies like this:
People with higher IQs are less likely to believe in God, according to a new study.

A survey of Royal Society fellows found that only 3.3 per cent believed in God - at a time when 68.5 per cent of the general UK population described themselves as believers.

A separate poll in the 90s found only seven per cent of members of the American National Academy of Sciences believed in God.

He told Times Higher Education magazine: "Why should fewer academics believe in God than the general population? I believe it is simply a matter of the IQ. Academics have higher IQs than the general population. Several Gallup poll studies of the general population have shown that those with higher IQs tend not to believe in God."

He said religious belief had declined across 137 developed nations in the 20th century at the same time as people became more intelligent.

The best part of the article is this bit from a true believer:

Professor Gordon Lynch, director of the Centre for Religion and Contemporary Society at Birkbeck College, London, said: "Linking religious belief and intelligence in this way could reflect a dangerous trend, developing a simplistic characterisation of religion as primitive, which - while we are trying to deal with very complex issues of religious and cultural pluralism - is perhaps not the most helpful response," he said.

I think a simplistic characterization of religion as "primitive" is indeed warranted. Funny how he says it as if that would be a bad thing.