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Posted by on Oct 31, 2012 in Atheism | 16 comments

The States of Belief

Last night, I couldn’t sleep, so I ended up watching a few atheist YouTube videos and was astonished to find people arguing about something other than Elevatorgate. In fact, that’s the wonderful thing about atheists, they (we?) can’t agree on anything — including what they (we!) are.

The argument that I found particularly baffling went something like this: If you don’t know of something, then you don’t believe. Thus babies, for instance, are born atheists, since they don’t even know what a god is. Well, by that analogy, so are rocks. And by the same token, rocks are also theists, since rocks don’t disbelieve in god, either.

In reality, belief is a more complex state. That’s why, personally, I define my atheism as lack of belief. Although if pressed, I would say that I do actively disbelieve in a theist god, or any other god that man has described or conceived of. But if god is anything other than a human construct, then I can’t believe or disbelieve in it, because I’m unaware of it. It is beyond my capacity to understand. Hence, I merely lack belief.

In sum, belief is not a binary state. You can believe or disbelieve. You can believe strongly, or you can doubt. And in the absence of knowledge of what something is, you can lack belief completely, which is the mental state that most accurately describes how I feel about some sort of vague, undefined, unexplained, god-like entity. Hence my ignosticism.

Is this the “complicated” issue that hours of raging YouTube videos are really about?