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20 December, 2003

Functional atheism

Stumpjumper, at Resurrectionsong.com introduced an interesting concept, new to me though now I've done a Google search, I see it's an established term: functional atheism, as distinct from spiritual, or 'belief' atheism.

It's possible to believe in a god yet generally live according to a secular and humanist belief system, as if there is no god. On this functional level, nothing divides a christian like Stumpjumper from a (belief) atheist like me. Each of us has our own morality, and though we'd definitely differ on its inspiration, the effect is the same. I certainly live according to a fairly strong set of personal morals, though they're not defined by any established theism, beyond the 'background level' entrenched in British culture. Likewise, Stumpjumper says: "When I decide how to act, however, I do so based on what I feel is right, not on threats of eternal damnation. Acting morally and ethically brings forth its own rewards."
Read the post; it's a good one, which I don't want to oversimplify by paraphrasing.

On a slightly different matter, Robin, commenting on Stumpjumper's post, makes an... interesting statement, that:

"Proving the non-existence of anything if pretty much impossible. You may not believe in Santa Claus, but I'd love to see you prove he doesn't exist. Atheism is the height of arrogance and ignorance. To be agnostic is to question. To be atheist is to know (what is not knowable). Atheist have much more in common with fundamentalist than with agnostics. Both are questions of faith. One is something, one in nothing. At least the fundamentalist can make some sort of case for what they believe."

Agreed; one can never absolutely disprove something, but there's always balance of probability, and pushed to it's limit, there's a gut feeling, a belief, a faith. I 'know' that there is no god. To my very core, I am absolutely convinced of that; I have no hope of heaven nor fear of hell. That's my faith, as strong, and as valid, as that of any theist. It isn't agnosticism; I don't question the existence of a god, I'm utterly certain there isn't one. It's one of the few certainties in my life. A genuine theist truly 'knows' there is a god, exactly as an atheist 'knows' the reverse; both are equally correct, for those individuals. I don't claim to have disproved god, and personally I've never encountered an atheist who has made that assertion; it is indeed a question of faith.

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