Lo, a first post!

Hello, world!

This is our introductory blog post, so a few things out of the way;

  1. Who we are
    This is the blog of Atheos, the non-theist/secular humanist/atheist/agnostic student group at the University of Guelph. But we’ll be having (hopefully!) posts from a lot of different members, so expect to see herein a wide variety of opinions. Generally of the heathen variety.
  2. Comment policy
    Be nice. As of now we aren’t filtering comments. But we ask that posters respect the general ethos of the club; safe, accepted, worthy. Disagreement is fine, but our aim is to engage ideas, not denigrate persons.
  3. What you’ll find here
    Topics of concern to the average atheist/agnostic/non-theist/secular humanist, including but not limited to book and movie reviews, debates on relevant topics, personal stories, links and resources of interest, and posts that flesh out topics we’re discussing in our weekly meetings.
  4. Construction!
    It’s a work in progress, so your patience is much appreciated.
  5. And now… a post!

This week’s topic is “Why Atheism?” (agnosticism/non-theism/secular humanism… you get the idea).

Atheos, our club’s name, is a greek term that means “without god(s).” It’s a category most of us fit in to, but of itself, is simple lack of belief enough? Sitting at our table for club days last week I encountered several times the familiar question; “What do you do at your meetings?” I even got the atheist’s old (annoying) standby, the non-stamp-collector analogy. If all we did all day was sit around and talk about how we didn’t believe, this would be a boring club indeed.

But it isn’t. I would argue that Atheos the club, like the Atheism movement in general, is united by two things; the desire for a community of likeminded people to talk with and support us, and a system of thoughts and ideals that lead us to Atheism in the first place.

I can unpack the first idea easily enough, by imagining a world where atheism would be as boring as non-stamp collecting. In such a world, atheism would have to be as normal a position as not collecting stamps – not subject to suspicion, confusion, derision, and even persecution. Here in Canada we’re fairly lucky; atheism isn’t nearly as perilous or abnormal. But even here I’ve been told by a perfect stranger that I’m going to burn in hell, and, although I’m extremely lucky to have faced zero consequences for my lack of belief in my personal life, many of our members aren’t so lucky. So even if we’re not collecting stamps, we’re organizing because we live in a world where stamp collecting is the norm.

The second idea is more to do with what leads us to atheism than atheism itself. I’ll save the meat of my argument for this week’s meeting, but I’m going to spam a quick list of values here to start the conversation: Science. Truth. Prioritization of evidence for belief. Humanism. The desire to understand. Fairness. That small is not insignificant. That finite is not unimportant. That the universe is really, really cool.

I’m not going to argue that appreciation for science or the importance of evidence is unique to atheism. But I do think these are some of the core ideas that lead us towards atheism, and away from religion.

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6 thoughts on “Lo, a first post!

  1. I congratulate you on your organization and I hope you all continue to spread your rationality to many in the future. However, I wanted to point out that my post, linked above, specifically involves a national atheist political party, not atheism itself, nor an atheist groups in general. If your link to my post was merely to point out that the phrase and concept of “non stamp collecting” exists, disregard much of the following. The problem of a national atheist party that tries to represents the needs and wants of all atheists, or even most of them, is readily apparent and detailed somewhat in my blog post. Passingly, the problem becomes clear when contrasting Ayn Rand atheists with socialist liberal atheists like myself. I think groups like the Freedom From Religion foundation do a far better job at achieving these goals. Indeed, I myself do not subscribe to the idea that atheism is merely not collecting stamps — what would we talk about on the radio show/podcast or on the blog then? I have been involved in two student atheist groups, Agnostic and Atheist Student Association of UC Davis (where I was a member), and the Sacramento City College Freethinkers (where I sometimes attend to listen and support). I fully support those groups, as well as yours, and again I wish you the best of luck (also as a classicist and former student of Ancient Greek).

    • Hi Tom,

      Yes, the link was only there to provide an example of common usage – not to argue anything specific about your article. I am talking about things that unify atheists, but I don’t think I would argue that we’re anywhere near a voting block – although there are a number of more socially liberal policies that seem to be more widely accepted, and I think influence a lot of atheist’s voting habits. And in Canada we don’t really have church and state separation, so that would be a much more difficult issue for any forming political party here at least.

      If you’d like, I can change the link to something else.

      • No, that’s quite fine to leave as is. Good luck and if I can help at all, or perhaps interview your Canadian group for the show to get a perspective on atheists in Canada, let me know.

  2. Not sure if anyone is following the comments, but just thought I’d throw out a thought that didn’t really occur to me during the meeting, but that I thought of after:

    Aside from looking at the values/ideals/interests that we atheists share, I also think the club is worthwhile to contrast our differences as well. There are plenty of ways to come at atheism, and plenty of attitudes we can take towards religion as atheists, as well as moral and philosophical disagreements about what a lack of God implies. From a quick first glance, I think my philosophical beliefs are fairly out-of-the-norm for atheists, and I’m interested in comparing to see how other atheists frame their atheism, and justify it, and how their unbelief affects their attitudes toward and beliefs about the world.

    • I don’t exactly disagree, but I’m not sure what you mean by “what a lack of God implies” beyond, well, no God. Could you clarify? I also think that differing opinions aren’t exactly unusual in any group – the reason I wanted to focus specifically on things that draw us together is because people often argue that there isn’t much that does.

      I’m also curious what specific beliefs you have that you think are out of the norm?

  3. Yikes, sorry, I forgot to check in on my comment. If you’re still reading:

    I don’t 100% remember what I meant, but I think I meant something like, “what is implied by the principles that inspired us to reject God in the first place” (keeping in mind that people might disagree on what principles those are, and what those principles might imply). So, what arguments different people found convincing, what principles underlie those arguments, and what those principles imply in other areas.

    It’s come up a few times at meetings, but I think a lot of atheists frame their atheism in a “where’s the evidence?” sort of way: we don’t see evidence for God, so therefore, no God. Whereas I would say, I don’t believe there is any possible evidence that could convince me, so it’s not so much that I don’t see the proof, as that I reject that sort of idea as even being possible.
    I also think I’m a lot more of a scientific constructivist-y type person than a lot of atheists, although that’s less strong.

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