The A word

While many people who know me will know that my spiritual beliefs are an open book; I don’t have any.  When pressed for some kind of definition I tend to describe myself as an agnostic atheist –  agnostic as I don’t claim any knowledge, I leave that level of arrogance for those who claim they know what the creator of the universe was thinking, and atheist since I don’t hold any spiritual beliefs as no compelling evidence has ever been presented for any of the god claims made by any religion.

Back in 2008 I started YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/user/steviemgallacher), I had some video of different bands I had played with, and was looking for ways to embed it in web pages, and YouTube presented an easy way to do that.  While uploading a clip of Independence playing the Eric Clapton track ‘Holy Mother’ YouTube created a group of links to potentially related content, and this switched me on to two communities I hadn’t realised existed, there was a large Christian community, preaching the gospel and rather the mixed message of Jesus, and more pleasantly surprising was the atheist community.  While I knew I wasn’t the only one, it hadn’t really occurred to me that their might be others proactively spreading rationality over superstition, and doing it so pationatly, and eloquently.

As 2008 became 2009 I found myself enjoying more and more content uploaded by these ‘YouTube  atheists’ and enjoying the many debates that were taking place, not only with theists of different faiths, but also with other atheists who held different views on any number of issues.  While I have never spoken to the camera myself, I don’t feel educated enough on any of the topics, I enjoy the debate, and do contribute in the comments sections from time to time, which brings me to today, and the topic of this post.

In a recent video, the user Bionicdance (http://www.youtube.com/user/BionicDance) suggested in her video ‘Not a Theist‘  that atheism is a default position, and that until we are taught about the concept of god, we are atheists.  I find that I agree with BD, and while there will be those who disagree, I find her reasoning pretty sound.  One notable exception, is the user RationalRoundtable (http://www.youtube.com/user/RationalRoundtable), notable mostly because he is a theist, but unlike many theists on YouTube who seem to quote holy books and threaten non-believers with hell, RR tends to present his arguments in a very rational way and rarely quotes scripture, and while I don’t always agree with him, I do like his style, and enjoy his videos.  He has made a couple of responses to BD on this topic, but I feel he has lost his usual flair, and the most recent video ‘Stealing candy from an atheist baby (see below) actually annoyed me a little, I’m not sure why, perhaps I should watch it again, but I was compelled to comment, and was pleasantly surprised when Michael (RationaRoundtable) took the time to respond.  Needless to say I still don’t agree with his reasoning, so I think we’ll have to agree to disagree.  I’ll leave the comment exchange below, at one point he mentions a video by the user QuailaSoup which can be found here

  • Atheist is a general term meaning non-theist, to be without belief in a god or gods, so yes Michael you are an atheist as far as Zeus, Odin and many other gods are concerned, deal with it.

    You should not define/judge people by one characteristic of their personality, but the whole personality. Atheist is not a neat little box a person fits into; it’s part of a larger picture

    Until now I’d considered you to be one of the more rational theist voices on YouTube, but now I’m not so sure.

    steviemgallacher 3 hours ago
  • @steviemgallacher

    Well I am truly sorry to disappoint you, but try to keep in mind that by constantly attempting to blur the line of what atheism means makes it impossible to have a reasonable discussion about atheism/theism. A theist is defined as a person who believes in a God or gods, it is not specific to a religion only that one believes that a God or gods exit, it is not about which God concept one follows only that one thinks some kind of God exists.

    RationalRoundtable 3 hours ago
  • @Part 2

    thus, to say one is an atheist in regards to Zeus, would be as silly as suggesting that one is not a human in regards to Europe.

    RationalRoundtable 3 hours ago
  • @RationalRoundtable Absolute nonsence! human in regar to europe?

    The only person I can see trying to redefine the word ‘atheist’ is you.

    to bring this back to topic, you stated “A theist is defined as a person who believes in a God or gods”, since a baby has no concept of a god, christian or otherwise, until the indoctrination process has begun, the baby is an atheist.

    I think of my self as an agnostic atheist, agnostic ‘cos I don’t claim to know, atheist ‘cos I don’t believe.

    steviemgallacher 3 hours ago
  • @steviemgallacher

    So, let me ask you, do you think that a rock is an atheist? Before you answer, it really depends on if you buy the ‘-ist’ suffix argument that many atheists put forth. If you are unaware of that argument a good example if found at:

    watch?v=sNDZb0KtJDk

    RationalRoundtable 3 hours ago
  • @RationalRoundtable I’ve watched it, and I think the question is rather childish.

    You are a smart, intelligent human being capable of much more than this.

    The larger point (you seem to be missing) is that until a human is introduced to the god concept they are not a theist, and probably never will be, it’s only when the idea is introduced, and it takes hold, wether it’s forced by a parent figure, or something they choose, and becomes part of who they are, they become a theist.

    continued….

    steviemgallacher 2 hours ago
  • @steviemgallacher

    …continued

    If you want to categorise further you could argue, rather correctly, that an atheist like myself and a young child are different kinds of atheist.

    A baby no more than a week old would still be looking at his/her fingers in wonder, so I don’t imagine he/she would have given much thought to the origin of the universe.

    Whereas I, as 32 years old male with a reasonable education, but no religious upbringing, was able to look at the “evidence” and follow where it led.

    steviemgallacher 2 hours ago
  • @steviemgallacher

    you may think the question to be childish, but I actually had a point to it. I agree with QS’s argument that rocks are not atheists because of the “-ist” suffix, however that same argument also means that in actuality BD’s definition is demonstrably false, and in fact babies are not atheists. More on that in my next video.

    RationalRoundtable 2 hours ago
  • @RationalRoundtable I’ll look forward to it. 😉

    steviemgallacher 2 hours ago
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