Wednesday, April 17, 2013

GODLESS WEDNESDAY: "Apatheists" -- Good Or Bad? Who Cares?

Heh! I usually describe myself as an atheist, but I discovered a new term listening to the radio last week: "apatheist." According to Wikipedia, apatheism is a "portmanteau" (blended word) of "apathy" and "atheism." It is also known as pragmatic atheism or practical atheism. It can be defined:
Apatheism describes the manner of acting towards a belief or lack of a belief in a deity, so it applies to both theism and atheism. An apatheist is also someone who is not interested in accepting or denying any claims that gods exist or do not exist. In other words, an apatheist is someone who considers the question of the existence of gods as neither meaningful nor relevant to his or her life.
Apatheists hold that if it were possible to prove that God exists, their behavior would not change. Similarly, there would be no change if someone proved that God does not exist.
I think apatheist might be a more accurate to describe my "belief" about God. I believe the existence of God is as relevant to my life as the existence of Santa Claus or Satan or Sasquatch. However, I prefer labeling myself as an atheist to advance the political project of expanding the space for people to embrace "Godlessness" or lack of faith to counterbalance the people who trumpet their faith and the influence it has on politics and public policy in this country.

The Friendly Atheist has this to say about apatheists:

It’s weird for me to support ignorance (or active avoidance) of the issue, and I’m sure there are plenty of people who would rather see people care about religion (regardless of their beliefs) than to avoid the topic completely, but the Apatheists aren’t the ones who give us trouble. 
It’s the vocal believers — the ones who proselytize, who try to change the laws to favor Christian ideals, who tell you you’re going to hell if you don’t agree with them — who are the problem. They’re the ones we need to go after. If people don’t want to join our side, then step outside the ring and let those of us with good arguments and strong convictions take control of the debate.

I think Hemant has the wrong idea here. Just because someone is an apatheist does not mean that they will not be part of the fight to limit the prominence of religion in the public sphere. In fact, it seems to me that apatheists are clearly allies in this cause precisely because we don't think the question of the existence of god is important, that we would support efforts to reduce the influence of religion on public policy, so I see apatheists as useful members of the godless coalition.

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