Since we are reading
This topic recently came up in the Atheist & Agnostic Crafters forum on Ravelry, a kind of knitting MySpace site. Several people were claiming that to be an atheist requires just as much faith as to believe in God, because it is impossible to prove a negative.
Here’s what I said in response (with a few edits):
There is absolutely no reason to believe in god(s), even though it is possible that the existence of such beings canâ€™t be disproved, technically (mostly because God is intentionally defined by religions as something that canâ€™t be disproved; thatâ€™s part of the power of the meme). The existence of this alleged god-being is not something anyone could ever discover, and it is only believed because superstitious cave men couldnâ€™t figure out where thunder and lightning (and life, and sunshine, etc.) came from, and then, eventually, political powers took advantage of the fears and superstitions of the people and made up formal religion.
Since there is no evidence, it does not take faith or belief to be an atheist. It is a lack of faith in something extraordinary for which believers have not provided extraordinary evidence. Sorry, but I know that a lot of atheists accept that crap about not being able to prove a negative and therefore itâ€™s a belief, but thatâ€™s just not true. Someday I will be able to articulate this more clearly. Alas, today is not that day.
Being an atheist is exactly the same as being an a-unicornist or an a-fairyist, or an a-teapot-orbiting-Mars-ist for that matter. Santa is different because we went to the North Pole and, guess what?, he wasnâ€™t there!
Unfortunately, when we discovered that heaven wasn’t up in the sky beyond the celestial spheres, basically disproving the existence of such a place, religion moved heaven outside the universe, making it impossible to disprove. Hell, as it turns out, is not in the center of the earth, either.
So, what do you think? It is worth the breath it takes to argue against the existence of God when the burden of proof lies with the believers? Are books like Paulos’s useful? Merely entertaining? Is the idea that “you can’t prove a negative” valid or worth considering? Does it require faith to not believe in unicorns?