Saturday, February 4, 2017

Is Atheism a Belief System?



I came across the above episode of “The Late Show” in which the presenter Stephen Colbert interviews the famed British entertainer Ricky Gervais, who also happens to be an atheist. In the interview he declares that atheism is “not a belief system,” which is a rather disingenuous comment. So I sent him a message by Twitter and asked him if he believed in God or not, to which he did not reply, so I will have to answer it for him myself. There are three possible answers that he could give to that question: “Yes,” “No,” or “Undecided”. If his answer is “Yes,” that is a belief system. If his answer is “No,” that is also a belief system. If it is “Undecided,” then it is not a belief system. If there is no more “evidence” for one side than for the other, then whichever one you choose to adopt becomes a belief system. Only the third option is not a belief system. And since by his own admission he does not “believe” in God, that means that he has a belief system.

In the interview he calls himself “agnostic atheist,” which doesn’t make a lot of sense. It is a contradiction in terms. It sounds like he wants to have his cake and eat it. He needs to make up his mind whether he wants to be agnostic or atheist. He can’t be both at the same time. An atheist is somebody who does not believe in God, period. An agnostic is someone who hasn’t made up his mind yet. Once you have made up your mind (one way or another), then you have a belief system. In the interview he makes it clear that he has made up his mind. He does not believe in the existence of God. That means that he has a belief system. If something is wrong with that argument, I like to know what it is.

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