Every now and then I see a nonsensical question something like this:
But then, is it nonsensical? It is for me. (And all the other atheists who laugh reacted.) But I, and they, don’t speak for all atheists. Or do we?
Atheism is simply the disbelief in gods. That’s it. But ironically even that short definition is loaded, at least when I write it. I do not define it as the “disbelief in god”, but the “disbelief in gods”. There’s a subtle difference.
A theist, for example a Christian, might define atheism as the “disbelief in god”. That’s because they assume their god is real, and the concept of god itself is based solely on their own one. To them, their god is “God”, in other words “the god”. As for me, my concept of god changed. The Christian god claim is one of many. None of them are more significant than any of the others. The words of anyone’s religious texts thus aren’t useful or convincing, or evidence of anything other than that their claim exists.
When I was sixteen and stopped believing, I would have defined my own atheism as the “disbelief in god” because my concept of god was still based solely on the one I was taught about at my Roman Catholic church and Sunday School. But then I also still believed in an afterlife, so this is why the question interests me… But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Can an atheist believe in an afterlife?
Of course! You can believe in Tinkerbell, unicorns, whatever the fuck you want.
Should an atheist still believe in an afterlife?
The thing is, when you start to think critically, you logically adjust your beliefs. There’s a natural progression. Almost every critical thinker starts at the same place… The bearded magic man in the sky who created all the things. We all reject that idea right off the bat because it is obvious nonsense. Some people might stop there, and if that’s good enough for them, that’s OK.
But most of us atheists aren’t just atheists. We’re critical thinkers and skeptics. We examine why the idea of a god is silly, and it is because there’s no evidence. There isn’t any evidence of a “remote” mind being separate to our brains either. In other words, souls are made up things too. An afterlife is likewise a made up thing. Ghosts don’t exist outside of our imagination. And so it goes on. Of course we’d all like to be reunited one day with the people we love who have died. Of course we are all afraid of nonexistence, and the promise of life eternal is attractive, but no amount of wishful thinking makes these things real.
So sure… you could be an atheist who also believes in an afterlife, the supernatural, and so on. But if so, you are likely either new to atheism, or you’re an idiot. You can’t be a critical thinker and believe in such things though. If you believe in such things and call yourself a critical thinker, you’re wrong, but thanks to the Dunning Kruger effect, you won’t take my word for it.
To conclude, I don’t claim to speak for most atheists, technically. But just as I used “technically” in the title. I don’t speak for most, but technically I kind of do, because being an atheist, at least for those of us who started out religious, involves a process. We don’t shed all our irrational beliefs at once, but it happens gradually. So most of us will laugh at the idea of an atheist who believes in an afterlife.
A harsh as my words may seem, I have only recently begun to see what it means to be an atheist who never believed in the first place. My son, now 13 years old, is second generation atheist. For a while I didn’t have control of his upbringing and it seemed like he would be indoctrinated, but he is now definitely a nonbeliever. He doesn’t remember ever believing, and his view is much as I imagined mine would have been if I’d never believed at all. Things like the idea of a god are just plain silly to him, and that makes me proud.
He’s inherited my sarcasm too, so when religion is imposed on him, he can be quite rude about it. (Good.) But like many second generation atheists, he has not inherited my passion for going out of my way to mock creationists. As long as they don’t push their religion onto him, he leaves them be. (Even better.)
But… sorry loons. I won’t leave you alone. In fact, even if I were (hypothetically) to know that a loon reads this blog obsessively, looking for things to use against me, I’d deliberately sneak in the occasional bit of false ammunition that only he would understand for him to load his mental blanks now and then, just to fuck with him.