1. The universe is purely material. It is strictly natural, and there is no such thing as the supernatural (e.g., gods or spiritual forces).
2. The universe is scientific. It is observable, knowable and governed strictly by the laws of physics.
3. The universe is impersonal. It does not a have consciousness or a will, nor is it guided by a consciousness or a will.
4. Meaning comes from the living world.
If atheism had to have tenets, because we wanted to explain our worldview to outsiders, what do you think of these? The first three are from this article from the most recent Sunday School. The fourth is adapted from an idea of our own very lovely Onyango Makagutu: "meaning comes from human beings".
As for the article: 1) he's not saying that atheists are bad people. 2) he might look like an enemy, but really he's a friend, because he's spelled out some very relevant questions that we need to answer explicitly and rigorously. The reason we need to answer them is because many other people ask them too, and that's enough reason. We shouldn't shy away from them, if we want to hold our heads up high as a legitimate world view. We expect other world views to justify themselves. I'm doing a lot of work behind the scenes, and one day I'm going to answer them all with a flourish, I'm going to butt heads with all those people. On the one hand I expect it will upset some applecarts but also they will be pleasantly surprised with what I've got to say.
 here is my response to Pastor Rick Henderson's article.
The two bases of the moral framework:
Hah, hey Dr. Bob, there must be a Satan in that thar religion of science, eh?
I find no 'satan' within the sciences, just the willingness to pursue 'truth' ending in concentrated 'power'. I do not have 'faith' in the sciences', any more than I could have 'faith' in God/theism. These are both 'human' enterprises, and more than enough evidence exists to stop most true believers of either, if they are still asking the question, 'where will this lead?'
Perhaps we need a Satan particle to go with the God particle. ;-)
Mostly, I figure we're just humans.
Wrote a little satire on the 'Physics of Angels' once. Figured that if they can be likened to sub-atomic particles, they could have spin, charge, 'strangeness', charm, and flavor, and the interaction between and 'angel' and an 'anti-angel' would release the heavy particle of 'responsibility', and the energy of 'imagination'. Figured that if we were not very careful, the mutual destruction reaction could be reversible. If the damn things keep flying, the heavy particle might never been observed. If we invest our imagination in their creation, surely we might be worse for it. ;p)
Submit it to a religious-post-modernist journal and they will accept it immediately without peer review (especially if you claim to be a scientist).
I am not sure if I can make even a reasonable claim to 'be funny'....
, it would then imply a great deal, which would frost even the lightest theist.
That's for theists to deal with. They are the ones making their claim to special truth and disrupting the lives of many people because of it. An atheists shouldn't give the slightest toss how a theist would react when they reject this claim...if the theists is openly making it and/or being a total menace in the process. The only case where this is of concern is when atheists start menacing non-menacing theists (which unfortunately happened en-mass in Soviet days and does happen with some of the "new atheists"). In any case, rejecting a statement doesn't imply that the person who made the statement must defend it. That would be a rationalist's response. There are many different flavours of atheism...but the only thing they have in common is rejecting the statement that "god exists" (which can range from saying GOD DOESN'T EXIST YOU DICKHEAD to not giving the slightest care about any statement and going their own merry way never to think about it again).
the igtheist (which is where I lean): "This conversation is over until you define your god and back-up your claim with evidence worth listening to"
the full blown atheist: God doesn't exist...period
the I don't give a toss: Huh...god? Go jump in a lake
agnostic who is a virtual atheist: We cannot properly reject the statement or verify it though I act as though the statement is dubious at best
agressive atheist: God you say? PROVE IT DICKHEAD!!!
tribal atheist (Dr. Bob mistakenly believes this represents most if not all atheists): Okay...so religion is out...now let's create a group of atheists with our own tribal tennants and mission statements
scientismist: The scientific method is the best [even only] method we have for forming objective statements and naturally religion doesn't have a hope of being taken seriously
apathetic atheist (I'm convinced this represents most atheists or virtual atheists): Meh
The 'Rejection' carries with it a great deal of possible emotional baggage, with theists being called to defend their 'metaphysical commitments', and investing their skills at promotion, guilt, labeling, marginalization, and appeals to abstract or concrete authority.
That entirely depends on the kind of atheist who rejects the claim that "God exists" and the kind of theist who gives a toss when atheists reject that statement. A thousand different pairings of atheists and theists would result in a thousand different encounters and emotional experience ranging from silence, a benificial conversation, a chat about anything other than religion, a fist fight, a conversion or war). The only thing the atheists will have in common is that they reject the claim and the only thing the theists will have in common is that they support the claim.
For an atheist, the theist proposition of 'existence of deity', is of no weight, and is mostly based upon emthy statements,
Well it certainly should. That doesn't mean that atheists don't waffle on the statement sometimes or endlessly obsess over the statement.
Watching how our culture 'uses' scientific knowledge, it is unclear, to me, that a new cultural norm developed out of the 'sciences' will be 'better'
Atheists as atheists do not propose this. Most humanists (who are mostly atheists) do as well as most naturalists and rationalists do. Sam Harris is right when he says we should be very careful with the term Atheist or even drop the term all together. In any case note that "use scientific knowledge to help build a cultural norm" isn't the same as "create a cultural norm out of science".
Yes, for the first, 'science' methods are used to inform decision making, or place that decision making on some 'firmer footing'. The latter, might make all of our decisions conditioned upon an insight only based upon a 'scientific result'. I am unsure if the latter will help create a deeply humane culture, or just offer a more invasive set of new skills or tools. We can surely do much worse with our culture as it stands at present, and I would rather make sure than some form of 'level headedness' leads.
I am thinking of my first read of 'Walden II' (memory serves I hope for the proper title, writen by the legendary behaviorist BF Skinner). Where he attempts to build a 'culture' where being good is easy, and social instability & outcasts are 'socialized' away. Sounds wonderful on a few deminsions, but then I must wonder how most of us would fair in such a culture? He made it out to be 'scientific', but I can run a rough simulation in my head and such a model can yield a 'just worse, of more of the same'. Maybe I really am a hard-nosed anarchist...
Bringing a Dr. Bob reply to the top level:
"Just because something "works" doesn't necessarily mean that the human explanations of why it works are correct, or that the humans who developed it were thinking in a way that was at all useful. You can build an arch without knowing calculus or finite element analysis of forces."
I like the way you have put this explanation, Bob, you're right of course science is the study of reality, not the reality itself.
It is true you can build an arch without understanding why it stands up. However, if you do understand why it stands up (i.e. if your explanations as well as your engineering are both sound) you can transfer that knowledge to other projects. If you transfer knowledge of demons and angels to other projects that will not help you.
What I mean to say is that although I think you are strictly accurate to say that science doesn't "work", there are better or worse scientific explanations (good and bad science I suppose) are there not? Given that, we should presumably favour good explanations over poor ones. How do you yourself distinguish a "good" piece of scientific explanation as opposed to a bad one. If it is that it fits that data better is that not the same as saying this explanation "works" (even though you might not phrase it this way)?
"honk honk", brings back a few very good memories, but decided that I must be more respectful...
Cleaning up 'dog(s) ___" I seem to miss....
Never had guy 'friends' that would consider a public elimination event...