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An essay donated by Alan Rogers

How to be a tolerant Atheist

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The veteran British broadcaster Alan Whicker was once asked if he needed to learn foreign languages in order to make the travel programs for which he was famous. Immaculate in his regimental tie and blazer he replied, "Never speak their language, it gives them the advantage".

I am thoroughly weary of theists saying and writing .. "but you can't prove or disprove the existence of god so atheism is just a faith". If only it were, we might then be permitted to be one of "our partners in the faith communities" that the UK government is always consulting and financing. I have decided that I have been guilty of speaking the theists' language, thereby giving them the advantage. I have therefore resolved to avoid, where ever possible, use of the words "god", "faith" or "belief" again. I will not refer to myself as an atheist because, as has frequently been pointed out, this is defining yourself in relation to nothing. Atheist may have been a relevant term when the population was overwhelmingly Christian, a bit like calling yourself a pacifist in times of war, but now that most people find religion irrelevant to their lives or are C and E (Christmas and Easter) social Christians I have decided that I will avoid the term. I will always replace the adjectival use of "faith" with "sectarian" since it properly carries the connotations of sectarian violence and sectarian conflict. If I am asked "do you believe in god"? I will reply "my life experience clearly shows that the universe is indifferent to human suffering". If asked "how do you construct a moral life on this basis"? I reply "humanity is an integral part of the biosphere and it is vital that we take very good care of our planet in our own interests. In human relations, evolution has given us, as social animals, the capacity for altruistic co-operation. Game theory shows this to be an evolutionary stable strategy. I love my wife, children and grandchildren which is to be expected from evolutionary genetics." At this point I confidently expect the theist to loose interest and go away. The refusal to speak their language will have at least got rid of them for a while.

If they persist and challenge me to disprove their belief in god, the best tactic probably runs along these lines.

"You say you have a god. You are an honest and intelligent person so, although I do not have a god, I believe you. If you were to tell me that you have a carpet in your lounge I would believe that too. But - if you were to go on to tell me that you can take this carpet onto your patio, sit cross-legged upon it, ask it to fly you to Samarkand and it will; then I will choose not to believe you. I would claim that there is no such carpet. The same applies to your god. If you tell me that your god has attributes which I find inconsistent with what I know science has revealed of the universe and with my own life experience, then I will claim that there is no such god and consequently that you must be deluded."

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