Pharyngula

Last week, I made a post criticizing poor atheist arguments, and in particular, citing atheists who fall back on the limp crutch of the dictionary to justify their beliefs. This made many people upset. I have been named idiot of the week for failing to understand the meaning of atheism, and I’ve got one wanking manic obsessive on twitter insisting that I must make a public apology for daring to try to redefine the meaning of the word “atheism”. Commenters are declaring that they are proud to be Dictionary Atheists.

They’re all wrong. I’m not redefining atheism, nor am I declaring the dictionary wrong: I’m saying it is insufficient. Also, no one is a Dictionary Atheist, and the folly lies in pretending that you are one.

I do not have the power to redefine the word, and I’m also smart enough to know it. I only wish those readers had been smart enough to realize that, too. My article was not a top-down commandment (it’s peculiar and revealing that so many thought it was), but was instead a bottom-up recognition of an obvious fact.

Everyone who is an atheist is so because of other, prior ideas. I’m not saying that there is one set of ideas that make for a True Atheist™, but rather that if you claim there are not, if you pose as someone who is an atheist simply because you don’t believe in gods, you are failing to consider your own philosophical foundations. Calling yourself a Dictionary Atheist is like taking pride in living an unexamined life.

That’s it. And that’s what really annoys me, people who can’t recognize that there’s more to their atheism than blind acceptance of what a dictionary says.

It’s sad to see that so many atheists have something in common with Ray Comfort. As you might expect, Comfort completely distorts what I wrote to claim that I was “pointing out the non-existent foundations of atheism.” Not so, of course, since I was saying the precise opposite: that atheism has strong and rich foundations, and is not simply a blanket rejection of deities.

That’s what Dictionary Atheists imply. Not me.