Blundered across this in an academic paper, put together by a U.K. professor of philosophy, purporting to be the distilled creed/philosophical arguments for the Dawkins' style New Atheism.
I'm curious what the group thinks of it.
I believe that the cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be. I believe that no other reality, divine or otherwise, exists. There is no life after death, no meaning to life apart from life, and no events or experiences, individuals or scriptures by which any supra- natural reality can be revealed. The cosmos forms the boundary of our experience. I believe that human life has no meaning apart from itself: that while there is purpose in life, there is no purpose to life. There is no ultimate justice, no final act of grace and no salvation. This is not a providential universe. I believe that not everything is permissible. For while that which increases happiness is not always a good, that which increases misery is always an evil. I believe that by the deployment of human reason and the acquisition of knowledge, by the development of moral law and the cultivation of compassion, the suffering of humanity can be alleviated and the condition of our lives improved. I believe that the path to individual and collective happiness lies in being educated to reality, and in being thus released from the irresponsible and pernicious illusion of religion, for which there is neither evidence nor need.
The line was popularized by the 1948 film adaptation of the novel. In one scene, a Mexican bandit leader named "Gold Hat" (portrayed by Alfonso Bedoya) tries to convince Fred C. Dobbs (Humphrey Bogart) that he and his company are Federales:
Having stumbled upon this “creed” that you blundered upon Professor, have you any thoughts on it yourself or on the thoughts we offered you? I understand you may be busy elsewhere but I was wondering which parts you might disagree with – apart from the fact that your God is not given any consideration in it?
No, I have no personal thoughts on it. This is an area where I am honestly quite ignorant, and I would never try to tell folks what they believe.
I was wondering whether it made sense to people here before I asked any questions about it (well, I thought responses might trigger some questions perhaps).
I do believe with the statement that "there is a purpose in life, there is no purpose to life. However as an individual myself, I do not conform to the absolute idea that the cosmos is " all that is or ever was or ever will be". Since there is a whole new theory out there in Physics, regarding String Theory or Multiverse theory, we have no idea as of now what the validity of it is. It may very well exist or it may just not.
It's like that statement from Star Wars, where Obi Wan Kenobi says to Anakin Skywalker, "only a Sith deals in absolute". Which in itself is an absolute statement. When you have a creed with extreme filled parameters, it results in absolutism. Only certain proven absolutes can exist with evidence such as the speed of light, law of thermodynamics, etc. With everything else, especially regarding humans, a perceived notion of absolutist ideology does not work, rather there are always an exception to the cause.
I was just curious. Personally, I think all human intellectual endeavor bases itself on some fundamental assumptions. Creeds are how we define the assumptions in some religions; in mathematics we call them axioms or postulates. One might consider such things as defining the limits of analysis, or perhaps as things which are true but unknowable/provable within the framework of the system (Godel's Theorem writ large, if you will).
I was just wondering what this community thought of this professor's effort to distill the postulates on which many in the group base their reasoning.
You were just curious? In fact, curiosity is the engine that drives intellectual development, especially in the realm of science. And I do equate science with reality as opposed to religion representing fairy tales.
To avoid confusion it is best to present the atheist position in it's simplest form: we have a lack of belief in all things supernatural. Explanations on the origins of the universe, happiness, morality, etc have no connection with atheism. Your personal philosophy on how to live out your existence is not tethered to atheism.
I couldn't have put it better myself. My only caution would be in regards to what is meant here by the "cosmos." If it is referring only to the observable universe, now or in the future, I would take mild exception. I can accept the notion that there is MUCH more to reality than what we have detected or - probably - what we will ever be able to detect. What lies beyond our senses and imaginations, if anything, is not known and probably not ever knowable by human experience or intuition - not by scientists and certainly not by theists. It is, therefore, nothing about which we need to concern ourselves; but it's an integral facet of humanity to speculate, I suppose. At any rate, at age 77, it's not something that keeps me awake nights.
I'd like to remind the OP that the title of this piece is only true in the most literal sense. That is, this "atheist's creed" is probably one particular atheist person's creed. It certainly could not be an ATHEIST CREED in the same way that a statement could be a church's creed, because you can't confine atheism to a creed.
The very ideas of "creed" and "atheism" seem to be nearly mutually exclusive, to me. Not totally, because of course everyone believes something, but from the time I've spent around atheist blogs I have noted that you really can't define atheism except by the one fact of not believing in gods. Creed is defined as "a statement of belief", and atheism is defined as not-a-belief. It is atheism, not Atheism. There is no test for orthodoxy. Atheism wouldn't be a thing at all except that so many people in the world are religious. A-theism is like a-unicornism, a-SantaClausim or a-fairyism. People don't have to have the same reasons for not believing in unicorns, and you and I not believing in unicorns doesn't mean we share any other beliefs in common.
That being said, I have very few problems with the creed you've posted. It's not how I would have said things, and like others mentioned, it is far to absolutist in parts, but other than that it seems good.
I'm not 100% sure whether I'm atheist, agnostic, or even some form of liberal religions/Unitarianism. For now my only creeds are 1) I think, therefore I am, and 2) Love your neighbor as yourself.
Why would a person with a lack of belief in gods require a creed? I agree with sentiments already expressed that as an atheist, the only thing that unites me with others is our lack of belief in gods. We don't require a creed for that.
As to the creed, as Un-one has said, the first statement is a faith position. How, do tell, can one claim that the cosmos is all there will be? Granting, the definition of cosmos, to be not limited to the observable universe, still one would be hard pressed to prove this statement.
Whether life has meaning or not has nothing to do with my atheism. It is a matter of personal reflection. I believe life is absurd, the next atheist may not agree, so how then can one purport to claim we have a creed? We don't need one!
** no need for any creed...faith is irrelevant to atheism as a form of objective knowledge
Now, the very short atheist viewpoint -- atheists believe-in nothing --
...no faith-based statement has any claim to knowledge at all. For example, atheists reject the xian "God" -- Father/Son/Holy Spirit -- as so much lying propaganda and pernicious mythology. This is not some counter-creed; it is a viewpoint based on reasoning from history, mythology, textual criticism...political theory...philosophy...the physical sciences.
Atheists offer reasons (based in logic or science or history) for not believing that the xian "God" exists. Note the key -- reasoning based in fact -- reason ranks higher than trust in ancient hearsay and wishful thinking.
In short -- xianity is not a fact-based view of reality. Scientific theories contain our best current views of reality, though ones not immutable, but always changing in detail, and sometimes in substance -- like modern evolutionary theory, or Einstein's theory of Gravity -- the General Theory of Relativity.
Rather than pursue the topic further -- you might consider buying (as I did recently) a copy of Atheism for Dummies (author: McGowan 2013) -- as good a guide as any atheist could wish others to read.
I can explain a little better what I was saying before. I’m not sure if I disagree with the content of the creed so much as I think the idea of “atheist” and “creed” put together rubs me the wrong way.
A creed is a statement of belief. The word ‘atheist’ denotes non-belief.
A creed is a religious term full of religious connotations. A creed is necessary for beliefs like Christianity or Islam. You affirm that Jesus is the only true God, or that Muhammad was the last and greatest prophet. Those affirmations are necessary because the very act of believing is one of the things that saves you. Whatever else you believe in life, you must believe those core tenants or invite punishment on yourself.
HOWEVER: To become an atheist, a Muslim doesn’t have to take up a new creed or set of beliefs; he simply falls into the ‘atheist’ category as soon as he ceases believing his old religious beliefs.
You can believe in things without professing them in a creed. When you got out of bed this morning, I suppose you stepped confidently out onto the floor. You didn’t hesitate, wondering if you would float up to the ceiling instead of sticking to the floor, or question if the floor would collapse and dump you into the basement. You didn’t think about your creed of gravity, you just acted on what you know from experience.
I believe that eating food will sate this feeling I call ‘hunger’ and provide the nutrients my body needs. I believe that taking air into my lungs allows me to keep living. When I dive underwater in a pool, I believe very strongly that if I don’t get my head above water again before long, I will pass out and die; but I’ve never made up a statement confirming my belief in air.
That’s how atheists see their view of the world. They see it as an acknowledgement of what they see, hear, and feel. To an atheist, “belief” and “faith” in forces greater than yourself are unnecessary.
If you did create a creed, it would have to be a freethinker’s creed, not an atheist creed. Nobody has a creed of non-belief. No Christian has a creed that says “Muhammad is not the prophet,” and no Muslim is told to repeat every day, “Jesus is not God.”
A freethinker’s creed, still, would look very little like a religious creed. You don’t have to be assured or dogmatic in not believing in gods, spirits or fairies. As I see it, all you have to do is believe in yourself. You don’t have to know what the universe is like, or where right and wrong come from. Instead you say that the world is a rational place, and the best way to learn about it is through observations, experiments and logic. Not relying on magic or mysterious explanations for anything.
Basically, you believe in your own ability to observe the world, and in your own logic to learn and draw conclusions about the world. When it looks like there’s no god, it probably means there is no god.
I believe that the path to individual and collective happiness lies in being educated to reality,
I have my doubts. It's a sensible ideal on paper, but I don't think humans are capable. We are capable of reason to some extent, yet prone to bias and unreasoned behaviour perhaps by our very nature. I wonder if the best we can manage is to be rational about our irrationality, and identify those critical areas to which honesty and reason must be applied while letting the rest slide.