If you really think about it there are fanatics on both sides. Religion is really only
a group of people believing in a certain way. Atheism to me is the same way
my beliefs and the right to them. I like to live my life with my own beliefs
so I do not begrudge anyone else in their beliefs.
Atheism is certainly not a belief system. An atheist is simply a person without any belief in gods. Period. An atheist may well have a strong tendency toward skepticism with respect to any and all unsupported beliefs, but, apart from epistemology, there's no system that might define his attitude toward what we can know as true in the world.
When you ponder it, "belief system" seems an odd and suspect expression. It takes for granted the dubious idea that everyone must subscribe to a ready-made assemblage of interlocking and mutually reinforcing beliefs, or attitudes, about the Universe and existence itself.
A system of beliefs shared with others is a safe intellectual harbor, a place where all the fundamental human mysteries have answers, where there's reassurance to be found in the essential Goodness and Purpose of Life and Creation. Why wouldn't you want that? As long as you subscribe to the system, there's nothing to worry about. We know the answers--or, if we aren't sure, at least we know where to seek for answers when we have troubling questions. Dude, everything's OK.
So, not to have such a system is a state theists often equate with having no beliefs at all--no answers, no safety, no hope, no purpose, no way to tell right from wrong. Existence is just a horrifying, inexplicable, ungoverned, meaningless mess. What a timid, prejudicial crock of shit that is.
Beliefs arise from knowledge. There's no other trustworthy place to find them. When theists use "beliefs" to refer to things that they assert can be truly known without any evidence, when they insist that wishful thinking is knowledge, they have righteously and arrogantly corrupted the meanings of both words, "belief" and "knowledge."
Have you published any of your thoughts elsewhere?
I am very impressed by your erudite explanation of how our non-belief cannot be considered a "belief system," and why we should be suspicious, if not cautious, with the very use of that term. It's obvious to me you have your act together and enjoy an exceptional ability to express your thoughts on this subject with well-written and easy-to-read prose.
I agree with your assessment of this specific point and look forward to reading more of your comments.
Thanks very much, Rob. I'm a freelance writer--a novelist, screenwriter, and essayist. I also teach writing (online) for the U. of Maryland. My Hector Bellevance suspense/mystery series features an atheist detective (Bellevance). Each of the three novels is set in northern Vermont and inspired by an actual crime. The most recent is THE ERRAND BOY (Three Rivers Press), which came out in 2009.
Here's my author's page at Amazon.
While agreeing with most of your points, I am slightly troubled by the implication that being an atheist is being against supernatural gods. (...someone who does not believe in supernatural gods...I'd rather be for something than agaist (sic) something.")
If being an atheist is defined as being against God (or gods), then I am not one of those. I just don't believe there is a God (or gods). I don't see how I can be considered "against" everything I don't believe exists. I consider myself a free thinker, but I don't want to be labeled that if it confines me to a specific definition of what a "Free Thinker" (or Freethinker) is to someone else.
On the other hand, isn't it possible for someone to think of themselves - Of course, anyone may think anything they like of them self. - as an Atheist and a humanist and a free thinker and any other category they choose to identify with, as long as their choices are not contradictory, or mutually exclusive? Where is the freedom of thought if you have to be careful that your thoughts are not objectionable to someone else, or that your thoughts do not meet a set of criteria established by any group purporting to have the authority to do so?
If at any time you feel any angst that your thoughts are in violation of some preconceived set of rules, you're right back to the mental condition brought about by religion, in my humble opinion.
Ah, but you do know. With almost as much certainty as you know that leprechauns don't exist.