Morning coffee not yet entirely digested, I flipped through the news. Brain set to autopilot, I somehow found myself participating in a competition for tickets to the new movie: The Golden Compass, a fantasy adventure starring Nicole Kidman. To win tickets, I had to answer the following question (loosely translated):
To which faith does The Golden Compass subscribe?
Krhshhhtspschhhhh. That’s the sound of the autopilot breaking. “Wait a minute”, my brain said: “Atheism is not a faith!”. Sure, it sounds like a faith, but so does xenophobia. The popular understanding is that atheists believe there is no god: that’s a belief, right? Right? Not quite.
Atheism comes from the Greek language: “a-theos” means “without-god”. Atheism means the lack of belief in god or gods. Let’s throw that up in the air and taste it a little bit: the lack of belief. Being atheist doesn’t require you to believe in anything, it doesn’t require you to dress in a special way, it doesn’t have any leaders and it makes no demands. In fact you could say it’s a default position. A fresh baby, born straight out of its mothers womb: mind is a clean slate. Atheist by default. One cute little cuddly, laughing eating and pooping atheist.
Faith is a label that’s tacked on to the baby later on. Sometimes at the christening, sometimes when they’re told of the
easter bunny Jebus Thor God. Atheism is not a faith. Atheism is making the best of your life, here and now. There’s no promise of eternal life and there are no answers to be found in books. There’s only the marvel of the complexity of the world, the universe and tiny poop-machines called babies. Atheist babies.
There’s no atheist doctrine that says there cannot be a god or gods. It’s just a healthily skeptical view of the world that says that unless you can actually prove that a god or gods exist, it’s equally likely that god is a spaghetti monster or the easter bunny.
Ultimately, I answered “atheism” and moved on. The author of the quiz was probably just lazy and on a deadline. He’d probably forgotten that he was an atheist himself at one time.