As a subject in itself, belief can become a red herring matter of undue contention. We do not approach with tentative trepidation any of that with which we are familiar, and still we argue over whether or not we are guilty of beliefs. It appears we chase after a decoy lobbed into our midst by those who have accused atheists of harboring beliefs. Enough of us took after the bait in a fury of denial, that others decided that, apparently, there must be something to it. “The accusation came from the religious, after all, so it has to be wrong.”
Ecclesiastics Versus Reality The entire discussion misses the point; the point involves the nature of evidence one depends on to decide what to believe, whether one relies on foggy notions, or if no evidence is required at all beyond an appeal to the emotions. As their child, I received admonitions about evidence from my Christian parents, usually during the heat of battle. Dad would warn me not to believe everything I’d read in books. Mom would accuse me that I’d not believe something if it was right in front of my eyes.
The Belief Decoy Tries To Describe Atheism As A Religion “Right in front of my eyes” was what I would believe, but not if it could only be found in a book. Most of us seem to agree that “beliefs held without evidence” describes religion, but that’s true only by overlooking how evidence gets validated. The nature of belief-worthy evidence is what the belief decoy boils down to. With only disbelief in their local gods in common, many atheists advance philosophies they learned from reading and adopted with no way to test them. Some are avid determinists, or Popper advocates, while others recognize those, and many similar others, as secular religions that create divisions between us. Such beliefs earned their own names, such as “Popperism” or “Determinism” while atheism remains an empty placeholder. The belief decoy prevents us from recognizing that, acknowledging it, and working to put it behind us.
Living without a god gives us a secular approach to living to hold in common. While we can debate the fine points for a lifetime without changing an opinion, it seems important to recognize that our secular nature gives us more in common than what divides us. We need to learn how to recognize the decoys others throw at us as the mind traps that they are, and pass those lessons on as we learn them. We need to start by recognizing opinions for what they are: something to tolerate, that maybe work for others but maybe not for ourselves. Atheists, in the main, are a great mix of trustworthy people with very few rotten apples to spoil the lot. That we have few beliefs perpetuated by our emotions appears to work against our ability to form truly effective alliances that could thwart many dangers waiting in our futures.
What are those dangers? It seems ironic that most of us will choose to wait and see.