What does an atheist believe anyhow? Does he or she actually
say "God does not exist." Most atheists I know would
never say that. How can anyone know with certainty whether there
something doesn't exist? But apart from people's misconceptions
about atheism, even many dictionaries misrepresent atheism, with
definitions like "Denial of the existence of God."
What most atheists do believe:
1. Experience and evidence should be the basis for any beliefs.
2. Those making an assertion have the responsibility for proving
Therefore, if I have no experience to convince me, and you
do not prove the existence of God, I have no reason to believe
he (or she) exists. I also have no reason to say he doesn't exist,
since I could not prove this belief. Why would I waste my time
trying to prove a concept as nebulous as God can't exist in reality?
If I told you that a blue snake in the sky ruled the universe,
you wouldn't believe me either. You would be an "aserpentist,"
but you wouldn't start gathering evidence that could "prove"
no invisible blue snake was up there, would you?
You may wonder, if atheism is simply non-belief due to unconvincing
evidence, rather than an opposite belief, where does this leave
agnostics? The most honest classification would be as a type
of atheist. They won't say they believe in God, so they are atheistic,
aren't they? Perhaps those who call themselves agnostics are
just afraid of the other "A" word.
This video explains why atheists
and believers have much more in common than you might think...
Words refer to something, of course, even if it is only to
ideas. In that sense, we can say that God exists as an idea,
and a powerful one at that. Some atheists even like some versions
of this idea. God, the idea, can be the cause of wars and horrible
crimes, but also can be an uplifting or at least useful concept.
Some refer to these types of ideas as "useful lies,"
because regardless of their truth or falsity, they can be beneficial
as "operating principles." The idea that everything
happens for a reason, for example, doesn't have to be true for
it to be a useful "belief" or "operating principle.
It certainly can get you looking for the lessons and other values
to be found in bad situations.
God, then, exists, at least as a common belief, or "useful
lie." As such, he may even do some good in the world. As
for His existence in reality, even an atheist can believe in
that - as soon as God comes down and shakes his hand.