I am sure there are plenty who don’t see a distinction between Anti-theism & Anti-theist. I do however for the purpose of this article choose to make a distinction as I personally do cringe when I see anti-theist in a twitter bio because it is an aggressive sounding word. Firstly let me say, I am human like anyone else. I am far from perfect and certainly do slip up from time to time. For the most part however I try and approach most people with respect. Even when another’s claws come out, I prefer to remain respectful as much as possible. Some people do make that difficult and since I am human, I do occasionally loose my cool or even occasionally fight fire with fire. With that disclaimer done, what is the distinction I am making between Anti-theism & Anti-theist?
There isn’t an lingual distinction but I have chosen to make one for the purposes of this article to illustrate a point. The definition of theism by Oxford dictionary is as follows.
A theist, therefore is person who holds such a belief. I have no issues with theists, I do however have issues with theism as an idea. I also am not overly fond over the problems theism causes in society, along with the science denial that is largely propagated by it’s constituents. Some of the issues I see as problematic because of the ideas of theism are things such as misogyny, bigotry and the infringement of personal rights and freedoms. We as a species have many different ideas and opinions and that includes those of theists. I support everyone’s right to live their life as they see fit.
What I don’t support, is people believing they have the right to decide for others what they can or cannot do in their personal lives. I also don’t support people teaching children that evolution is not fact. I have no issues with people teaching children that they believe in a god, but not that, that god is fact, because a god most certainly isn’t fact. It is an idea, a belief and even perhaps a world view, but not fact, because we don’t have definitive factual information to state it as fact. We have no repeatable, testable or observable evidence that a God is fact. People sometimes feel they have experienced God, but is what they experienced really God? That experience, is not repeatable, testable or observable for others. That experience may also be able to be attributed to other factors such as brain chemistry.
I don’t have a problem with people who hold God beliefs. I only have a problem with those who expect others to accept that God belief as true, or expect others to use that God belief as their source of morality. I have had several theists claim that God is the only absolute source of morality. The problem is, I don’t see a biblical God as remotely moral.
A God who condones slavery, cannot in my view be moral. Since the bible is the only source of information we have of a Christian God are we then to use it as our source of morals? There are also many verses in the bible which contradict each other. So which ones do we use? How many of us still believe that slavery is an acceptable thing to do? How about rape? Is rape acceptable according to the bible? From verses like this, it certainly sounds like it is.
“When you draw near to a city to fight against it, offer terms of peace to it. And if it responds to you peaceably and it opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall do forced labor for you and shall serve you. But if it makes no peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it. And when the Lord your God gives it into your hand, you shall put all its males to the sword, but the women and the little ones, the livestock, and everything else in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as plunder for yourselves. And you shall enjoy the spoil of your enemies, which the Lord your God has given you.
As someone who has been raised without religion, it really seems as though the bible condones rape, and that is not OK with me. Neither is slavery for that matter.
As for your male and female slaves whom you may have: you may buy male and female slaves from among the nations that are around you. You may also buy from among the strangers who sojourn with you and their clans that are with you, who have been born in your land, and they may be your property. You may bequeath them to your sons after you to inherit as a possession forever. You may make slaves of them, but over your brothers the people of Israel you shall not rule, one over another ruthlessly.
Given that many Christians are also against slavery and rape, it would seem that they also disagree with the bible. How can the bible be the objective word of God, if we have never heard God utter those words and the bible was penned by men? How can morality be objective if even Christians pick and choose which words of the bible are moral?
Morality changes from one person to another, and from one society to another. If that weren’t true, we would all have the same morals. Morality therefore has to be subjective. Societies morals change over time. There was a time when slavery was perfectly ok with the majority. That is no longer the case and laws have been made in most countries to reflect this. The same is now starting to occur in regards to same sex marriage. We are finally realising that there is really no reason two people who love each other shouldn’t be married. There is no reason why anyone else should have a right to prevent that marriage. Admittedly there are still many places who have yet to progress that far, but the point is, progress is happening. Things are changing.
This shift in attitude is happening because we are starting to realise through education and empathy that homosexuality is a normal place on the spectrum of sexuality. We are dropping our mythical based beliefs and are becoming more and more secular. We are learning more and more through empathy and compassion. Our emotional maturity is growing. Education is helping us realise that the more we learn, the more we have to learn. In areas of the world where religious beliefs interfere with and deny scientific knowledge, that progress is far slower. In many areas of the world where religious beliefs interfere, those religious beliefs see terrorism as perfectly acceptable and even righteous. Mythical ideas in many cases prevent education, and the pursuit of true testable, observable, repeatable and empirical knowledge.
For all of those reasons it is not the people themselves I take issue with. We all, including myself, have much to learn in many areas. It is those ideas I take issue with. Mythical superstition should not be treated as fact, because it quite simply isn’t. Mythical superstition should not be treated as superior to empirical fact, because it quite simply isn’t a reliable method of knowledge as the contradictions in the bible make clear. Not to mention the things mentioned in the bible which are quite simply wrong, such as the description of the firmament etc.
As a humanist, I believe people deserve respect. Idea’s however do not, particularly when they affect the lives of others in a negative way. When laws are formed on the basis of the ‘objective morality’ of the bible, I see that as a problem, a big one. I see no reason why those ideas should be respected. Laws should be based on empathy, and respect for human beings, not some mythical book of stories which were written 2000 years ago.
As a humanist, I reserve the right to speak out when I see fallacies claimed as fact or rights being infringed. I also see the word ‘humanist’ as a far more positive & productive word to use as a label regarding theism than the word anti-theist.