OPINION: Recent letters in The Irish Times promoted six common myths about atheism, including that it is a religion or belief system based on faith and certainty, and that we need religion for meaning and morality.
Atheism is not a religion. Religions typically have creeds supposedly revealed by supernatural beings, while atheists form our own beliefs. Atheist groups claim to speak only on behalf of our members, not on behalf of the creator of the universe.
Atheism is not a belief system. There are as many belief systems as there are atheists. But two significant general beliefs follow from atheism: that morality does not come from gods, and that reality is not revealed by gods.
Atheism does not require faith. Faith is belief that is disproportionate to the best currently available evidence. Atheism is proportionate to the evidence. There is no reasonable evidence that gods exist, and a lot of evidence that humans invented the idea.
Atheism does not require certainty. Strictly speaking, we cannot be certain about anything. But we can be as certain that the Christian god does not exist as Christians are that Thor or Zeus do not exist. Give us reliable evidence and we will change our minds.
We do not need religion for meaning. We each determine our own sense of meaning. We have evolved to notice patterns in nature, which helped previous generations to survive. This can cause us to mistakenly see patterns and ascribe agency, including to gods, that are not there.
We do not need religion for morality. Morality is a natural process of our brains, based on empathy, compassion, reciprocity and reason. It enables us to distinguish good moral ideas in the Bible, such as love thy neighbour, from bad moral ideas in the Bible, such as killing people for gathering sticks on the Sabbath.
What then is atheism, outside of these myths? What is “new atheism”? And why does a secular state protect the rights of everyone equally?
Written By: Michael Nugentcontinue to source article at irishtimes.com