In the wake of the terrible events in Chapel Hill, North Carolina this week, I hear once again the cries of disgruntled atheists declaring that “atheism isn’t a worldview,” as if this was a way of shrugging off some important criticism. The basis of this objection is that all atheists believe wildly different things on many different matters. They do – just as is the case with Christians. Worldview denial is also a way of distancing atheists from the atheist murderer in Chapel Hill on the basis that his actions should not reflect upon the majority of atheists. They don’t – just as is the case in equivalent situations with Muslims. The reluctance to accept the term ‘worldview’ is also a means of creating distance between atheists and religion – just as when Hindus say they don’t have a religion, just a way of life.
One of my motives for creating this blog was to offer a space of encounter between atheists and Christians, not to mention any and all other religious and nonreligious traditions. Personally, I dislike the term ‘worldview’ – it creates false impressions, like the presumed need to deny that such-and-such is a worldview. I prefer to talk about religions and nonreligions. Atheism is a collection of nonreligions, just as Christianity is a collection of religions. Yet neither religion nor nonreligion warrants strong causal arguments from the highly abstract terms ‘atheist’ or ‘Muslim’ or ‘Marxist’ or ‘Christian’ or ‘Baha'i’ to extreme events such as murder. But any such terms mark certain risks, especially of misunderstandings, and these risks cut both ways in all cases.
Comments are welcome, but please try to present your position in the best possible light by being polite and not posting in anger.