“So What Do Atheists Believe In?”

Richard S Russell, who writes what he calls “Russellings” for his website, Live Journal, replied to a letter to the editor in the Wisconsin Cap Times that asks, “So what do atheists believe in?:

Dear Editor: Anne Nicol Gaylor’s death reminds me that God is not the enemy of atheists, religion is. So focused are we on what atheists DON’T believe in, we hear little of what they do believe in. We’d like to hear more of that in the future. Faith is intended to be a sanctuary against the overwhelming unknowns of life. Let’s hear more about atheists’ faith.

Tim Haering
Concord, Calif.

Russell was ready to answer Hearing’s question because on March 7 and March 8, 2008, Russell did “some original work of [his] own” on this question, so he sent this reply to the Cap Times:

In response to Tim Haering’s question “What do atheists believe in?”, I offer ONE atheist’s opinion on what I personally believe in. I cannot and do not purport to speak for anyone else. We atheists all have a wide variety of opinions on everything under the sun; the only one we’re guaranteed to have in common is our attitude about gods, and that’s only because it’s a matter of definition — “a-“ (without) “theos-“ (god) “-ism” (belief).

As far as affirmative principles are concerned, I subscribe to the words of Thomas Paine, “Independence is my happiness, and I view things as they are, without regard to place or person; my country is the world, and my religion is to do good.”, augmented by Robert Green Ingersoll’s “The time to be happy is now. The place to be happy is here.” and Martin Luther King’s “The time is always right to do what is right.”

But Mr. Haering also asked “Let’s hear more about atheists’ faith.”, and that’s not a question about WHAT we believe (the substance of our views) but rather HOW we arrived at them (the process). And, as a process, faith as the least reliable of all possible decision-making methods, after logic, reason, confidence (in things), trust (in people), chance, obedience, and hope.

Faith is the decision-making tool of last resort (and thus the one most favored by the priesthood). You only use it when you desperately WANT to believe something but there’s not a shred of evidence for it and quite often lots of evidence against it. Whenever you have evidence to support a conclusion, you’d use one of the 7 superior decision-making methods and would have no hesitation in saying so. Faith gets hauled out only to support conclusions for which there is no reason to believe in their truth, validity, efficacy, or efficiency.

Indeed, faith is listed among these other processes only in a kind of honorary fashion, because arguably there’s no “process” involved at all: The assumptions at the input end (like “God exists”) essentially go straight thru, unmodified, and come out the other end looking not a whole lot different than when they went in (kind of like creamed corn when you’ve got the flu).

Nobody ever uses faith for anything that actually matters — and certainly not for anything that can be measured. Really, it’s useless anywhere outside of religion. And maybe the stock market.

Frankly, you have to be an idiot to take anything on faith. As it happens, billions qualify.
= = = = = =
Richard S. Russell, Madison WI, http://richardsrussell.livejournal.com/

Russell’s reply adds to the discussion on atheist versus agnostic in the comments section of “No God-Yes God Divide.”

Thank you Richard S. Russell for permission to post your reply.

H/T: AAI via David Rand

3 thoughts on ““So What Do Atheists Believe In?”

  1. Mr. Russell, you absolutely *nailed* it! Superb post.

  2. Great Post! I am going to forward it to one of my believer friends.

  3. FYI, Richard Russell’s post has been published as a letter to the editor in The Cap Times, under the title “You have to be an idiot to take anything on faith”
    http://host.madison.com/ct/news/opinion/mailbag/richard-s-russell-you-have-to-be-an-idiot-to/article_e410efaa-3b37-56d7-810b-ee0b6e79350d.html

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