Wednesday, October 10, 2007

My Blog Name

I suppose I should clarify my blog name since there is the potential for significant misunderstanding (although probably not if you actually read many of my blogs, lol).

Usually, when a person changes beliefs---and particularly in the case of religious beliefs---he or she is said to have been converted to the new system. Unfortunately, Islam completely inappropriately describes those converted to Islam as being reverted. (To revert is to change back, or return, to a previous state.) The reason they do this is because they claim that everyone is born a Muslim.

I vehemently disagree with this absurd (and self-evidently false) assertion. No baby "believes" anything. It is no more appropriate to describe a baby as a Christian or Muslim than as a Capitalist or Marxist. It is simply too young and inexperienced to form a belief one way or the other.

Atheism is the "absence of belief in the existence of God or gods", or "disbelief in the existence of God or gods". The former exactly describes the state of a newborn on the topic of god(s). Newborns are atheists.

I was an atheist at birth. I subsequently spent many years believing Christianity. Through honest, rational examination of the available evidence, I eventually returned to atheism (this time leaning more toward the latter definition).

I am reverted.

5 comments:

lorimaite said...

Muslim believe that a baby is born without sin and in complete submission to God. Until a child is old enough to know right from wrong and old enough to be held accountable, they are considered in the grace of God. So they are considered one who is in submission to God which is the definition of Muslim. Its not about a specific religion its because children are considered innocent. You are atheist so you believe that you are born as an atheist. That is your belief and no one has the right to make you believe anything else. You believe what you wish. I am sure that you agree that you were born innocent and blameless of anything. The only difference with a muslim is that we believe in God. Until you are not innocent, of course you are in the mercy of God and blameless. For that period of time we consider you a Muslim. Of course I understand that is not your view, I was just stating the other view. As I have said before, You absolutely have the right to you opinion. As the Qur'an says, to you your beliefs and to me mine. I will not believe as you and you will not believe as me. Another words lets agree to disagree and allow each other their own beliefs.

Peace be upon You

Reverted said...

Thank-you for posting on my blog, lorimaite.

This particular blog entry's comments regarding Islam were with respect to people's beliefs, which are the only things that really define any of the world's religions in the first place (Islam, Christianity, etc.). You can, of course, claim that a baby may be considered to be a Muslim, but it really doesn't make much sense when you reflect upon it for very long: a baby is no more aware of Islam (Allah, Mohammed, Qur'an, etc.) than is a member of an "uncontacted tribe" (or a monkey, or bumblebee, or rock, for that matter).

Under the "lack of belief in god/s" definition of atheism, it is entirely fair, accurate, and appropriate to characterize a baby (all babies of all species) as an atheist---seeing as how it lacks any beliefs of any kind, including those about any gods.

(Your assertion is not even possible to make without first coming into some familiar awareness of Islam, through some mechanism. My statement could be made by anyone, anywhere who carefully reflects upon the issue. So, please do not pretend this is not strictly about religious beliefs. My statement is manifestly true; yours, you only "believe to be true". So, even if I let you take the stance you suggest, you would still have to agree with my "babies are atheists" statement, due to its obvious truth as relates to babies lacking beliefs.)

Anyway, thanks again for posting. :)

lorimaite said...

Your definition of athiesm is a little incorrect. It is not the lack of belief in anything, but the belief in nothing. To say a baby is an atheist, you have to say the baby believes in nothing. From your argument, a baby can not believe in something, therefore can not have a belief in nothing. Until a baby is old enough to understand and choose a belief, it has no belief. So how could it be atheist? I am not saying the baby has any understanding. I am saying until it has understanding and can choose, say atheism, we say that it is innocent and therefore in its correct nature. It is not considered muslim as in believing in anything, or following a religion. It is considered muslim because it can not choose anything or believe anything. The same for an adult with a major learning disability. If he/she is not capable of choosing or believing, we consider that person muslim. Not because either believe in something, but because they are not capable. To say such a person (or baby) is not innocent is denying what they are. Many Christians view such people the same way, and label them as Christians. In the end, we are both saying that they are in a perfect state when it comes to judgement. Once someone is capable of choosing, things change. If they do not choose to follow Islam, then they are no longer considered Muslim. This time because they choose. We say they are Christian or Muslim before they can choose because we believe they are in a state of Grace. On the other hand, it does not make since to say they where athiest before they could choose to believe in the absence of God. I said that you prefer to view it that way because of your beliefs, I was not saying that it made linguistic sense. To be athiest, like any thing else, you do have to believe, just this time, not in God or gods.

Reverted said...

lorimaite, you said: "Your definition of athiesm is a little incorrect. It is not the lack of belief in anything, but the belief in nothing."

To be direct, you are simply wrong. My definition is precisely correct, and I will not allow you to misrepresent atheism, as is so commonly done by believers of all denominations and creeds---at least not on my own blog. (Have you ever actually knowingly spoken to any atheists about what they really believe, and how they think? And, I don't mean "trying to convert them"; I mean to really try to understand them.)

You said: "To say such a person (or baby) is not innocent is denying what they are." I never said any such thing (even though you imply that I did). The only thing I said was that babies are atheists. So, you apparently exactly equate atheism with guilt, which is not only a travesty (and terribly unfair), but is a gross misreading of what I actually stated. This discussion has never been about innocence versus guilt; it has been about belief versus nonbelief. (There is an enormous difference.) And, I explicitly specified as much in the original blog entry. (See the fourth paragraph there.)

You no more get to define atheism to me, an atheist, than I get to define Islam to you, a Muslim.

So, first off, an atheist no more "believes in nothing" (as you assert) than does anyone else, and to propose such a thing is patently absurd. Allow me to try to clarify by quoting Lynne Kelly: "Some believers accuse skeptics [a common euphemism for atheists] of having nothing but a dull, cold scientific world. I am left with only art, music, literature, theater, the magnificence of nature, mathematics, the human spirit, sex, the cosmos, friendship, history, science, imagination, dreams, oceans, mountains, love and the wonder of birth. That'll do me."

In short, the ONLY definite difference between atheists and others is a lack of belief in the existence of gods. Beyond that, you can assume nothing.

Atheism (a-theism) literally means "not theism". (Note the primary definition in the link.) If you are not a theist, you are an atheist; that is, if you are not a believer, you are a nonbeliever. It does not matter whether you are antagonistic toward god-belief, or if you simply lack god-belief; either way, you are not a believer. Being an atheist does not require certainty in the nonexistence of gods. (Yes, I know what agnosticism is; and no, I am not talking about it. See "weak atheism" and "strong atheism" for further clarification. And, note: both are atheism.)

I am an atheist, and I know a fair number of other atheists. Yet, I do not personally know ANY atheists who declare to know for certain that no gods exist (as you insist is the definition). They simply state that they see no evidence for any, no reason to think any exist. So, they doubt such existence. (The attitude is much the same as what one might have regarding the existence of fairies or unicorns: I can't prove they don't exist, but I seriously doubt they do.) Succinctly, there is a difference in maintaining that gods are unproved versus disproved. Atheism only requires the former---although, it encompasses the latter as well, as a subset.

Finally, one does not "choose" atheism any more than one "chooses" to doubt that 2+2=5. One simply winds up being an atheist "by default" when the arguments and evidence for religions and gods remain unconvincing. And, that's it. If you do not maintain a positive belief in any gods---if you lack such belief---you are an atheist.

I must close with a quote by Stephen Roberts, and a link, that I sincerely hope will help you understand atheism better: "I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours." Please, really think hard about this quote.

Here is the link (which only requires a very slight tweak to be applicable to you), and it ties-in very nicely with the quote: the list.

Reverted said...

I suppose it would only be fair to clarify that your assertion that atheism is the "belief in nothing" (rather than a lack of belief) is simply a conflation of atheism with nihilism. But, the two ideas are very much distinct, and should not be confused.