By Joseph Kellard
When conversation about God comes up in good (or even bad) company, I, of course, tell people that I’m an atheist. Because religionists mistakenly believe that God created the universe and is the absolute moral authority, they tend to lump atheists together, recognizing no fundamental distinction between them. To them, atheism is a philosophy, a comprehensive way of viewing life and the word, if, that is, they think on that level at all. They’re blind to what atheism fundamentally is, a minor aspect of one branch of philosophy: metaphysics.
To take the conversation to the epistemological level, I make sure to tell people that an atheist is not merely someone who denies the existence of God, but is certain that he does not exist — that his believers have never presented any rational evidence for his existence.
Uttering that word, certain (or certainty), tends to jolt people, both religionists and atheists alike. Some of the faithful have told me that I can’t be certain of this. Who am I to be so brazen as to say that God certainly doesn’t exist? No non-believer can hold so absolute a position, when all absolutes derive from the word of God.
On the other side of the philosophical aisle are the subjectivist “atheists.” If there is something they don’t believe in at all, it’s not necessarily God, but rather absolutes and certainty. However, anything less than certainty on their part, in my philosophical view, is agnosticism, an epistemological position that leaves the door open for God’s possible existence. Not surprisingly, and with even a little probing, you’ll find that many self-professed atheists are just agnostics at heart — because with that organ they just feel that possibility. Anything’s possible, right?
So while I certainly don’t fundamentally define myself as an atheist – there’s much, much more to life and philosophy than God – when I do mention that I am a non-believer, I try to bring up this issue of certainty, which distinguishes my position. This gives religionists the sense that others can and do uphold absolutes — outside of God’s commandments. And the atheists wannabes sense that maybe they’re just mere skeptics, doubters of all things a truly confident person can claim to know for certain, including that God absolutely does not exist.
* I made a minor spelling correction to the original post.