The spinster aunt is, I suppose, what is generally described as an “atheist.” The term is regarded with a narrowed eye here at Blaming HQ, on accounta it presumes a natural state of “theism” from which the “atheist” is deviant. The dominant culture — is there anything the dominant culture can’t do? — forces us to define ourselves in terms of belief in a clairvoyant celestial dictator. Many atheists, or at least those of us whose natural inclination is to saunter through the day with nary a thought for either appeasing or not appeasing an invisible overlord, find this irritating and alienating. The prepended “a–” assigns a sort of oppositional equivalence between “god-fearing” and “the absence of god-fearing,” often to the extent that atheism is itself regarded as a religion.
This is batty. “Not believing in a deity” is not the philosophic opposite of “believing in a deity.” On the one side, there is nothing whatsoever. Zip. Bupkis. Nothing quantifiable or measurable in the faith department. In fact, there’s no faith department at all.
Whereas on the other side is an elaborate and convolute belief system of considerable avoirdupois.
So, to recap: atheism, because it consists of nothing and, let’s face it, is only conceptualized in the first place because of hegemonic pressures, can neither act nor believe nor not act nor not believe. It’s not a religion. It’s not a belief. It’s not an agenda.* It’s nothing.
Imagine if it were the other way around. What if the citizenry were presumed a priori to entertain no goddish delusions? What if it were the norm to calmly accept the indifference of the cosmos toward individual humans? What if, were one moved to acquire an intimate understanding of the physical universe, the commonly accepted procedure were merely to observe it, rather than to make shit up using obfuscatory, 2000-year-old anthrocentric, dude-centric, earth-centric folklore?
In a world where deity-worship was a quaint curiosity, rather than a megatheocorporatocratic imperative, mystics who employed an Invisible Concierge of the Sky might be referred to as “atruthists.”
Behold, via Pharyngula, the mad ravings of a publicly elected atruthist; the Chicago Trib’s Eric Zorn recounts godfearing Illinois State Rep Monique Davis’s mindblowing freakout on atheist activist Rob Sherman at a recent General Assembly meeting:
Davis: I don’t know what you have against God, but some of us don’t have much against him. We look forward to him and his blessings [...] I’m trying to understand the philosophy that you want to spread in the state of Illinois. This is the Land of Lincoln. This is the Land of Lincoln where people believe in God, where people believe in protecting their children. What you have to spew and spread is extremely dangerous, it’s dangerous–
Sherman: What’s dangerous, ma’am?
Davis: It’s dangerous to the progression of this state. And it’s dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists! [...] I am fed up! Get out of that seat!
Sherman: Thank you for sharing your perspective with me, and I’m sure that if this matter does go to court—
Davis: You have no right to be here! We believe in something. You believe in destroying! You believe in destroying what this state was built upon.
State Rep Monique Davis, buffeted by the holy tide of millennia of godly cultural imperative, provides an exquisite argument for Bertrand Russell’s contention that “intelligence is impeded by any creed, no matter what.”
* Which is not to say that atheists cannot have agendas. The atheist activist, however, is mostly just saying, due to the in-your-face nature of the various dead lords and saviors, “Get your invisible dead lord and savior out of my face.” The threat “Or else I will tear your children’s throats out with my teeth” is merely implied.