So over on the YouTubes I was looking at a bunch of videos of galaxies and nebulae and all that stuff, just flowing from one to the other as they linked to each other and using up time of my life just as the aliens designed YouTube to do. Then I happened upon a video that wasn’t just about space, but was actually about how science and religion didn’t have to be separate or whatever. I didn’t actually watch much. I just wanted more stars. But then a comment caught my attention and for only the second time in my YouTubesing history I felt the need to make a reply.
The comment was: “Atheism is a belief like not collecting stamps is a hobby”
I have since realized that the guy didn’t even make up this comment, it’s been all over the Internet for a while. I’ve heard the one about bald being a hair color, but this one seems to have missed me.
So I made my reply, which can be summed up that I was pretty sure that Atheism was a belief that there was no god and dude replied back and I replied again and it may yet continue. But I figure if I’m going to go through this much effort I might as well get an article out of it, yeah? Plus, I don’t doubt that that guy has done plenty of arguing on YouTube in his time so I am totally going to lose over there. Here on my sheltered unseen corner of the Internet, I am always right because I own it.
Please understand that my confusion here is purely semantic. I’m not debating whether there is a God or there isn’t here I just feel pretty darn certain that atheism is a belief.
My article shall be about a dude named Erikson so that the title makes sense. Little Erikson is trying to decide what he thinks about the universe and he is all over the place. Just so he has someone to talk to, he is friends with a guy named Clodwall.
First Erikson tells Clodwall “I believe in God!”
Clodwall learns from that sentence that Erikson is basing his belief system on the concept that a great supernatural being that created and probably oversees the universe. Clodwall thinks that that is a totally understandable belief.
Later, Erikson is a little older and he doesn’t really feel so sure any more. He’s never seen anything that he feels shows God around. So he tells his friend “I believe there is no God!”
So now Clodwall can see that Erikson has changed his belief in how the cosmos work and now figures that no supernatural being was needed to make the universe so there probably isn’t one. That makes sense to Clodwall, Erikson has now become an atheist.
Later still, after losing his job at the wallpaper design company*, Erikson mentions to Clodwall “I believe we are incapable of knowing if their is a God or not.”
Clodwall recognizes that one as agnosticism so he knows that Erikson believes that humans are just too minute in the nature of things to be certain about anything divine. Makes sense to Clodwall.
So anyway, I was with Erikson and Clodwall up until this point. That’s where I was until my YouTubes conversation started. I thought I understood those three different belief systems as just that, belief systems. But the YouTuber Man told me that he is an “Agnostic Atheist.”
Later on two separate occasions Erikson talks to Clodwall about his belief system and gives similar, but very different new conclusions. “I believe we are incapable of knowing if their is a God or not, but since I can/can’t see proof I figure there is/isn’t.”
Clodwall has to admit he isn’t quite as sure where Erikson is coming from when he tells him about these ones. If Erikson is so sure that he can’t know, what evidence does Erikson see or not see that could possibly change that? It seems to Clodwall that accepting any evidence at all one way or the other would completely negate the first half of that belief and turn it into one of the other beliefs.** “But whatever makes him happy” says Clodwall to himself both times and he happily accepts his friend’s new beliefs.
Later, Erikson busts out this one: “I have no beliefs.”
Clodwall just can’t make any sense of this new one. He asks “How does that even work?” and Erikson explains how he goes entirely by evidence that can be seen now, so he only knows things, he doesn’t have to believe anything. “But you still believe in the evidence, don’t you?”
“No, because it is proven I don’t have to believe! I can know with certainty!”
“But how can you prove it?”
Now Clodwall as it turns out was a scientist. He had lab coats and Bunsen burners and test tubes and was a big fan of the Doppler Effect, so he was happy his friend liked science, but he was still confused by Erikson’s latest claim.
“Scientifically proving things means getting consistent results that can be replicated,” Said Clodwall. He continued “So to use science to prove something if you believe that science works. And I do believe that science works. I believe the hell out of it. So you don’t believe in nothing, you believe in science like me! And the way you’ve settled on still sounds pretty much like atheism to me too, actually…”
But Erikson didn’t care about that anymore because now he told Clodwall that he did not any longer have “no beliefs” now he believed the universe was shipped in from another universe by microscopic truckers. Clodwall chuckled and accepted his fickle friend’s new belief for just that, another belief.
And as with Clodwall’s reasoning up there, I can’t think of any system of belief that I would say actually is not a belief. Atheism/Agnosticism/Whatever, it all sounds like a person’s belief in how our universe works. Even if you believe that nothing is real save for your own mind or you believe that even your own mind is just an illusion you’re still choosing an idea there. The idea of not believing anything just seems impossible to me. From what I can see belief seems to pretty much be a requirement of sentience. No matter what line you take for how the universe works you have to have a belief in there somewhere or the word belief just doesn’t mean what I thought it did. I think that all these differing worldviews are just a matter of where that line of belief falls for each believer.
Just for the record, when I put the “not collecting stamps” thing into Google I found the same quote used to say atheism is not a religion way more often than I see it used to say it isn’t a belief. The former I will much more gladly acquiesce to than the latter.
Also just for the record, my first and so far only other discussion on the YouTubes was on a Flight of the Conchords video and was similarly pedantic.
So for now I shall remain far away from the YouTubes and stay here in my warm, safe and protected web site.
*Completely irrelevant information!
**I’m with Clodwall. The idea of an Agnostic Atheist actually doesn’t hold up in my brain. Once it stops being agnostic it really just sounds like something else, so why not just be that other thing?
Patrick D Ryall, the D is for Styrofoam.