Monday, February 14, 2011

No Such Thing as Atheists?

In Huffington Post, Rabbi Adam Jacobs writes an open letter to "my dear atheist friend."  And then he says,
The first point I'd like to explore is that there really are no true atheists.

(Your sighs here.)

Should we be concerned that someone calls his friend an atheist, then denies that there is such a thing as an atheist? So what is Jacobs justification for this?
It seems to me that in order to claim with certainty that there is no God you would have to have knowledge of the totality of the universe - seen and unseen - and I don't think any of you guys are ready to make that claim.

Same old fallacy, arguing that atheists make positive claims, when in fact atheists merely disbelieve the positive claims of theists.
You will counter that definitively proving the existence of God on purely rational grounds is similarly impossible, which, for the sake of argument, I will concede.

So I guess there really are no true theists, if Jacobs' argument is taken seriously.

Given this, your assumption of the title, "atheist" isn't so much a statement of fact as it is a statement of principle, or intent -- a nom de guerre.

Too wordy; let me help. The title 'atheist' is a statement of belief.

To define oneself as simply agnostic (which I believe you truly are) sounds unsatisfingly wishy-washy and degrades your ability to take a firm stand against deism, in its various forms.

As if one could not be both an atheist and an agnostic. And I'd wager that Robert G. Ingersoll, who called himself the Great Agnostic, would be surprised to hear that he never took a firm stand against deism.

While this is certainly understandable, I suspect that you have traded accuracy for titular intensity.

How about asking some atheists, Rabbi Jacobs, rather than speculating on our inner motivations and risking looking foolish?

So reading further, Jacobs surprised me:
Having spent a sizable portion of my life as an atheist, I understand your perspective.

Unless he was one of Richard Dawkins' "Used to Be's," But didn't he earlier say that there are no such things as atheists?

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