Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Not Collecting Stamps

Atheism is a religion like not collecting stamps is a hobby.

My knee-jerk reaction to a quote like that is to grab it and cherish it for awhile, giddily anticipating the day a can somehow sling it out again feeling very cocky and smart. How nice to have a shiny quip that can tidily sum up something complex for the attention-span impaired. But like most glib little sayings, it has tarnished really fast on me.

For many people, that statement is true. They live their lives and rarely thinking about religion. It seems like one of those things that happen to other people and they can, for the most part, ignore it.

For me, Atheism is a religion like not drinking is to a member of AA. That’s probably a badly worded parallel, but I hope I’m getting the idea across. I think about religion and atheism all the time. I’ve been trying to remove phrases like, "Thank god", "Oh my god", and "I swear to god" from my vocabulary. I’ve become acutely aware of the implicit acceptance of most people that most other “good” people believe in a god just like they do.

Every time there’s an interview with a person who’s either just achieved their goal or gone through a horrible event, I wait to see whether or not they’re going to credit their god for either getting them through it or allowing it to happen. I heard on NPR this morning that the headline in one Bulgarian newspaper, regarding the release of the medics from Libya, was, “There is a God.” It annoyed me.

I have a friend who refuses to accept that I’m an atheist. She tells people that I’ve become agnostic and looks at it like a fad I’m going through; eventually I’ll come around to being a believer again.

Hemet, The Friendly Atheist, had a post about "What should the focus be?" Creating new atheists or getting those who are already atheists to speak out as such?

Which led to me thinking how can I speak out as an atheist without being some un-born again evangelizer. I didn’t think there was a symbol for atheists, seeing how we’re not a religion. Then another commenter on blog pointed out that Arlington Cemetery has a recognized symbol for atheists: authorized emblems

I like the idea of a passive, non-confrontational symbol for my non-belief. And I do think there is more to being an atheist than just an absence of belief in the supernatural. While the American Heritage Dictionary defines religion as:
Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe
an alternate definition is also listed:
A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion.

You can’t pursue not collecting stamps with zeal or conscientious devotion. You wouldn’t want to blog about it either.


sacred slut said...

Well said. I've always disliked that expression but never put my finger on what it is that's wrong about it.

sacred slut said...

ps. your links don't work...for some reason your blog url is inserted before the actual urls.

EnoNomi said...

Thanks for the encouragement and thanks for pointing out the links. I've fired my QA department. Links should be better now.

Mojoey said...

Welcome to the Atheist Blogroll

Theodore Fritzlang said...

You can’t pursue not collecting stamps with zeal or conscientious devotion. You wouldn’t want to blog about it either.
Actually, if the world was filled with militant stamp collectors who thought that stamp collecting was the only worthwhile pursuit in life, that murdered people who preferred other hobbies and thought that there was something morally wrong with people who didn't collect stamps, then there would be many who would proudly proclaim that they were 'non-stamp collectors'.

Anonymous said...

Credit to Penn Gillette for the quote please, you didn't say it.

Stint said...

I think the quote sums it up nicely. Remember, We are all born atheists and we're taught to be everything else. It's just a lack of belief and the term atheism to me is that I don't accept the supernatural as being something real. It's like a person who has never swam, do we need to establish a term to describe them?