The comment thread on the entry about the shroud of Turin grows daily and is (perhaps not surprisingly) mainly not about the shroud but about Christianity and atheism. Some people are praying for me and my family, others are calling me names, just because I identify as an atheist and offer the scientific consensus view of that piece of Medieval linen along with some hypotheses about its context of manufacture.
Henrik commented that anybody who is not agnostic about gods has an unscientific attitude to the question. Owlmirror simply and wisely replied “Parsimony”. This is in my opinion worth a few extra words of explanation.
To my mind, atheism, defined as “not believing in any gods”, is the standard scientific attitude. The reason that I am not agnostic about gods, invisible pink unicorns etc. is a central scientific principle known as Ockham’s razor. It states that when attempting to explain observations, a person should be parsimonious, frugal, economic in their hypotheses. Do not hypothesise more things than necessary. No observation of the world demands the existence of gods or invisible unicorns in order to be explained. Science is doing fine without those hypotheses. Thus there is no reason to believe that they exist.
But note also that being a secularised Swede, I am not emotionally invested in the issue of gods. I believe equally little in gods, invisible unicorns, Santa Claus, Bilbo Baggins and Bigfoot. And I see no reason to treat the question of gods separately from other scientific issues. (I mean, if there were immensely powerful incorporeal consciousnesses out there, they would be a hot research topic in any number of scientific disciplines.) The reason that I identify as an atheist in my byline top left isn’t that I spend lots of time thinking about my unbelief. It’s that most Sb readers are in the US. And I know that in the religiously crazed United States, atheists are a beleaguered, even hated, minority. But they’re my peeps, and I support them as best I can. The right to freedom of religion is a fine thing. And so is the right to freedom from religion.
Melliferax has recently treated the same question at greater length and given a somewhat different reply.