Thursday, June 24, 2010

Why I consider myself a skeptic, rather than atheist, activist

Last weekend, the Danish Atheist Society (Ateistisk Selskab) and Atheist Alliance International hosted an atheist conference, Gods & Politics, in Copenhagen.

I went there, together with a bunch of pharyngulites (people who comment at the Pharyngula blog), and had an informative and all-round great time.

Still, the conference reminded me of why I consider myself a skeptic, rather than an atheist. Or rather, why I focus on skepticism rather than atheism these days.

The reason for this is that being an atheist is not evidence of rationality.

During the conference I ran into both global warming deniers and 9/11-truthers, and even got accused of being dogmatic by the later, when I said that his claims were moronic.

Well, if maintaining a rational view on things is dogmatic, then I'd be happy to be so.

Skepticism on the other hand, requires rationality - otherwise it's denialism (denial of things, in spite of evidence).

As an atheistic skeptic, I will fight many of the same battles as atheist activists, since these battles are also skeptic battles, and I think that skeptics and atheists could and should work together to make the world move towards a more rational place. I just also think that many atheists can be harmful to the skeptical movement (Bill Maher is a good example of this), and I equally consider them a hindrance for a rational world.

In other words, if you're an atheist, I will work together with you, but I don't necessarily think that we're allies, just because we both don't believe in gods.

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6 Comments:

Blogger Andrew said...

Yes. Rationality is the issue. Which is why I, too, am not fully comfortable with the atheist label. "No gods" is simply one conclusion I have reached. It could change (were the evidence to), and it isn't the only or biggest issue in my life. Additionally, the label certainly does a poor job defining my positive attributes.
Yet, when it comes to the political realm, it's a thumbnail, like liberal/democrat, that provides a quickie sketch and perhaps "vote" of where I stand.
Hmmm.

June 24, 2010 1:53 PM  
Blogger =^skeptic cat^= said...

When you're right your're right. There are some really loony atheists out there. I've had similar or worse experiences myself more times than I can count.

I will say, however, that for every 9/11 conspiracy theorist or what-have-you that I have met mingling among secular activists I can point to probably 4 or more really thoughtful atheists who understand the importance of rationality.

It is very easy to confuse tributary streams for the main current of thought in these situations just because those irrational atheists do kind of stick out like a sore thumb at a conference supposedly devoted to rational thinking.

June 24, 2010 3:08 PM  
Blogger Kristjan Wager said...

It's true that there are many thoughtful atheists out there (though I tend to believe you overestimate their ratio), but it doesn't change the fact that being an atheist is not something one has to rationalize oneself into, so it's no evidence of rationality.

June 24, 2010 3:13 PM  
Anonymous Jadehawk said...

yeah well, it looks like, to be precise and accurately understood, you have to say "skeptic atheist", or "atheist skeptic", since unfortunately these things don't overlap nearly as much as one would think they should.

June 26, 2010 6:56 PM  
Anonymous DataJack said...

I completely agree with you, and I think it is because there are many roads to atheism - The rational road, which I think most of us drive; and the assorted irrational roads, like the rebel road, which many collage kids and goth-types drive, or the "betrayed" road, for those who were counting on god for the heavy lifting, and didn't get it.

June 28, 2010 2:20 PM  
Blogger Sojourner said...

Kristjan,
I want to invite you to my own blog, www.letterstoskeptics.com.
I appreciate your thoughts and words. Although I represent another view, I appreciate those who are able to express opposing viewpoints.

December 08, 2010 11:00 PM  

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