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Apr 28 2008

An Atheist’s Creed

In the course of writing many posts on science and religion and atheism, it struck me that I was tangentially making many statements about what I, as an atheist, believe. I decided to summarize those scattered thoughts into one coherent statement. Of course, I am not presuming to claim that all atheists subscribe to this statement. The creed is purely a personal one.

An important point of clarification is necessary. When the word ‘believe’ is used in the creed, it is in the scientific sense of the word. Scientists realize that almost all knowledge is tentative and that one knows very few things for certain. But based on credible evidence and logical reasoning, one can arrive at firm conclusions about, and hence ‘believe’, some things such as that the universe is billions of years old or that the force of gravity exists. It is in this sense that the word ‘believe’ is used in the creed below, as an implicit acknowledgment of our lack of absolute certainty.

This use is in stark contrast to the way that the word is used by religious people. They not only believe things for which there is little or no evidence or reason, but even in spite of evidence to the contrary, and defying reason.

Some religious apologists try to exploit the fact that the same word belief is used in both situations to suggest that atheism is as much an irrational act of faith as belief in god. This is sophistry and is simply false.

An Atheist’s Creed

I believe in a purely material universe that conforms to naturalistic laws and principles.

I believe that the life we have is the only one we will have, that the mind and consciousness are inseparable from the brain, that we cease to exist in any conscious form when we die, and that it is therefore incumbent on us to enable each person to live their one life to the fullest.

I believe in the power of science and reason and rationality to further deepen our understanding of everything around us and to eventually overcome superstition and erase the petty divisions sown by religion, race, ethnicity, and nationality.

I am in awe of the beauty, vastness, and complexity of nature and the universe, and the fact that all arose purely by the working of natural laws.

I believe in the power of ideals such as peace and justice and shared humanity to inspire us to create a free and just world.

I believe in kindness, love, and the human spirit and their ability to overcome challenges and adversity and to create a better world.

I believe in the necessity for credible and objective evidence to sustain any belief and thus deny, because of the absence of such evidence, the existence of each and every aspect of the supernatural.

I refuse to bow, prostrate myself, or otherwise cower before the deities of any religion.

I am neither tempted by the fiction of heaven or any other form of eternal life nor fearful of the fiction of hell.

I choose to live the dignified and exhilarating life of a free-thinker, able to go wherever knowledge and curiosity takes me, without fear of contradicting any dogma.

7 comments

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  1. 1
    Norm Nason

    Wonderful!

  2. 2
    Tyler Babcock

    I second Mr. Nason’s comment. I’m going to use this (with credit given, of course) many times in the future, I’m certain.

  3. 3
    Bad

    I’ve always shied away from heading any of my positive convictions under the term “atheist,” as I think these convictions need no overarching title, and the word atheist is best left, for the purposes of minimal confusion, as simply my category in terms what I don’t believe.

    As I see things, I don’t believe anything “as an” atheist: I believe specific things (in the scientific sense) hopefully on their merits, irrelevant of whether I’m an atheist or not.

  4. 4
    kural

    Mano,

    would you privilege science over rationality? I know this sounds mixed up as there are some starting points in science that can be called axioms, and creationists love to go to town on this. even then would you subject rationality itself to the scientific test? i would.

  5. 5
    Mano

    Kural,

    I am nit sure how you would subject rationality to a scientific test. It seems to me that rational thinking is based on a mix of science, evidence , and logic.

  6. 6
    Dan

    “Some religious apologists try to exploit the fact that the same word belief is used in both situations to suggest that atheism is as much an irrational act of faith as belief in god.”

    “I believe in a purely material universe that conforms to naturalistic laws and principles.”

    I find the juxtaposition of those two statements very curious. What is your evidence for the belief in a *purely* material universe. You have made a positive claim; the burden of proof is on you.

    The creed becomes even more curious with the following:

    “I believe in the necessity for credible and objective evidence to sustain any belief…”

    What is your objective evidence for your belief in the necessity of objective evidence to sustain a belief?

    Mano, you would do well to stick with theoretical physics and stay away from metaphysics and philosophy.

  7. 7
    Mano Singham

    Dan,

    There are different burdens of proof for justifying existence and universal statements.

    The existence statement “There exists a white swan” puts the burden of proof on the person making the statement to produce evidence of one.

    Once existence has been established, the universal statement “All swans are white” puts the burden of proof on the person disputing the statement to provide a counter-example.

    My statement that “I believe in a purely material universe that conforms to naturalistic laws and principles” is, like the statement that “all swans are white”, a universal statement.

    Since we have established the existence of material objects that obey naturalistic laws and principles (indeed all of science and technology is based on it), the burden of proof is on the person challenging the universal statement to provide credible and objective evidence of something that violates it.

    Of course, if you deny the need for credible and objective evidence for a belief, then we really have no common basis for a discussion, since we can make any assertions we like.

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