- Published on Thursday, 04 March 2010 06:02
- Written by John Draper
- Hits: 2166
If you are not an atheist, you don't know what the word means. Have you ever told someone that you are an atheist and they ask: "Do you mean agnostic? How can you be so sure there is no god?" The word atheist does not mean an active belief that there is positively no god. It means an absence of a belief in god. Not quite the same. I don't say, I can't in conscience say, that there is no possible way that there could be a higher power that some might call a god. I simply act my life on the assumption that there is no god that I need concern myself with. I call that not being a theist or simply being an atheist.
I was brought up a Catholic and for 25 years believed that there was a personal god who would punish minor sins like not going to Mass on Sundays with everlasting hellfire. I finally decided that if this was true, then god was not loving or rational and all the other things said by the priests were open to question too. So the floodgates of questioning opened up. It's the same with any lie - catch someone in a lie and you wonder what other lies they might be telling. Not only that, but if god was not loving, how could he be trusted to do the right thing? If such a god exists, I'm screwed anyway.
So it's not that I can prove to myself or anyone else that a god positively does not exist - it's that the god almost everyone else believes in does not exist and any other kind does not make any difference to how I should live my life.
I've had other people say "But there is a mysticism in the world - look at nature, look at the flow of life, look at created things like music and other art". They then go on to label this as their "god" or maybe they just adopt a variation of Hinduism. It's hard to say that this kind of god is wrong - it's purely a personal label for something intangible. A different definition of "god".
And some "moderate" Christians say that the bible should not be taken literally, that god maybe did not even come to earth as Jesus, that hell does not exist and other almost rational things. They are not far off saying that the god they believe in is a higher power with little personal connection with us. So why do they still pray and go to Church? Maybe just because it's easier than stopping.
The word "god" looks like it has many different meanings - maybe as many meanings as there are people. When you tell people that you are an atheist, the people you say that to, interpret it as "you think my god does not exist". That may be true, but the details vary for every person you say it to. Language truly has a different meaning to every listener.