June 11, 2009

Atheist Rocks and Other Absurdities

rock formations

I received a recent e-mail from someone engaged in a debate over the meaning of atheism. He said that his opponent referenced the definition I have repeatedly used here at Atheist Revolution but claimed that this definition meant that "rocks and other inanimate objects were also atheists." I think I've heard this bizarre claim once before. I did not take it seriously, and I remember thinking that anyone making it was getting fairly desperate. After hearing it again, I figured the least I could do was address the matter.

When I said, "An atheist is one who does not accept the theistic claim," I assumed that "one" would be understood in the context of this statement as implying personhood or at least sentience. It seems that some people are now trying to pretend that inanimate objects would count as atheists. Maybe that's not a big deal. If rocks are atheists then there are a hell of a lot more atheists than religious believers!

But seriously, when dealing with such concrete thinkers, maybe it would be better if I had phrased the definition as follows:

An atheist is a person who does not accept the theistic belief claim.
I hope that is clearer.