A hobby of some atheists is debating with Christians and other theists. You’ll find many YouTube videos dedicated to this subject. I myself have not debated on the specific issue of the (non)existence of God in a long time, but when I did, I found it to be a quite enjoyable method of stimulating the grey matter.

However, stimulating as it is, I often find myself growing tired of the very academic nature of the debate. Who cares whether angels had free will? Who cares what the Bible says about shellfish and fabric material? Who cares if there’s a Hell or a Heaven or if we just rot in the ground, really?

I grow tired and ask these questions (to myself, not my opponents, obviously) because on a very fundamental level I consider the real issues to be solely political in nature. I almost consider atheism to be a purely political, rather than philosophical, position.

It all stems, I think, from the definition of “atheist.” For those who are not aware, “atheist” means “does not believe in a god.” It does not mean that you “believe no gods exist”, “believe the Christian God doesn’t exist”, or “worship Satan.” (Yes, some people actually think atheist means “worships Satan.” And yes, it makes my brain hurt, too.)

This definition tells someone essentially nothing about your beliefs. It is only the answer to the question “do you believe in <insert god here>?” If your answer is “no,” you are an atheist. If I were going to give myself a categorical title like “atheist” that actually reflected what I believe in, it would have to be something ridiculous like “materialist naturalist secular humanist agnostic atheist.”

But then, why do I call myself an atheist? If I don’t really care that much about the theology and the philosophy other than in intellectual conversation, why do I identify with this movement?

It is exactly because it is a movement. But while many might call it an intellectual movement, I’m willing to call this a political movement.

If atheism were a political party, it would stand for separation of church and state, skepticism, reason, and science. It would be against the teaching of intelligent design in schools. It would be against public funding for faith healing, homeopathy, or other new age medicines. It would be for gay marriage (or perhaps moving everyone to civil unions and letting marriage be solely a religious issue). It would be pro-choice and for stem cell research. Looking forward past the hot-button issues of today, it would be for technological and scientific advancement, space exploration, and improving the quality of life via human efforts.

The party’s motto might be this phrase I once saw on a button: “Two hands working can do more than a thousand clasped in prayer.” What we want is evidence and reason to be used to make decisions, not faith and dogma. What we want is scientific advances to fix our problems, not moral edicts and church charities.

These are (some of) the issues I care about. And atheists aren’t the only ones who care about them. That’s why the atheist/theist debate is only something you think about late at night when you’re with some friends and you have a few beers in you. The real issues, the things atheists really want, are all to be found in the political realm.

So, if there are any theists out there who want to debate via email or something, feel free. Just know, however, that while that’s all good and fun, I don’t really care what you believe, as long as you aren’t trying to impose your beliefs on me via the government. If you try, that is when it will start to get serious.

~peace, RR

I welcome comments and suggestions. Comments can go below, suggestions to radiantreason[at]gmail[dot]com 🙂

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