Seb wrote:I realise that atheism isn't a fad by any means, but it just seems to be a topic which is very current and is the subject of much debate at the moment.
I think that just happens to be a symptom of the era we're living through. Firstly, the number of broadly non-religious people in the world is growing. (see: Adherents.com
)In fact, numbering approximately 1.1 billion, the irreligious marginally outnumber Roman Catholics at 1.05 billion. So there's quite a lot of us out there. The other key factor is probably Richard Dawkins book, The God Delusion. It's not a staggering work by any means - but its straightforwardness and immense popularity has served as a real consciousness raiser. It has given many quiet atheists/agnostics the courage to emerge a little from their closets. To stand up and be counted. That's why it looks to you like we're coming out of the woodwork. Actually, we've all been here a long time.
Seb wrote:In what has always been recognised as a predominantly catholic country the rise in outspoken atheism is interesting.
It is interesting. I think it should also be set in the context of a nation that has experinced a rapid increase in wealth, and a broad dissilusion in the behaviour and leadership of the church. These are factors which have also allowed people to raise their consciousnesses. Plus there's the fact that we live right next door to (and consume large amounts of news/culture/TV etc) from Britain, which is much more atheistic than here.
Seb wrote:Many people I have spoken to do see atheism as a choice, and thus as a means of identity.
Which people? Theists, I presume. I cannot fathom how an atheist could describe their world view as a choice, unless they are merely trying to avoid conflict with their friends.
Think about it for a second. On the one hand you have a system that offers you eternal life in a really wonderful place, basking in the glory and benevolent love of your maker,with all your family and loved ones alongside you. On the other hand is the offer of nothing. Zip. Nada. Death = death.
Choice. What choice? If there was a choice I'd choose A every time! And I mean every time. I would also 'choose' Santa Claus. But I can't. I can't choose Santa, I can't choose God & Heaven, and equally, I can't 'choose' atheism.
I get up in the morning, I don't see god. Not any of them. I carry on not seeing god/gods on a constant basis until I die. And then I'm dead. That's atheism. No god. No choice.
Seb wrote:I found this interesting because surely absence of belief in something whether it be god or anything else, shouldn't be a defining factor for someones life.
I don't think it is. Religion/belief is a defining factor for believers, for even if the whole world's population belonged to one religion and one religion alone, they'd still define themselves as god's subjects. On the contrary, if everyone in the world was an atheist, the topics of god, faith, belief, non-belief, disbelief etc, would simply never come up.
An atheist finds him/herself defined by the press of theism all around, perhaps in a way similar to how a vacuum is defined by the matter surrounding it, not by the absence itself. I personally consider it absurd that people believe in mystical supernatural creatures forces and events without a shred of supporting evidence, but I am surrounded by them every waking moment.
Seb wrote:What I find most bizarre of all, is when people argue for 'militant atheism'. I find these arguments just as violent and misguided as the proponents of fundamentalist Christianity.
What I find bizarre is that you should have come across such people. I never have. Militant atheism? I mean really Seb, have you ever spoken to a militant, violent atheist? Please don't confuse conviction with militancy. Just because an atheist holds a strong opinion and can back it up with facts, doesn't mean they want to convert you or kill you. Even those who are vehemently anti-religious.
Atheists are sometimes strident and arrogant, yes. When you live on a what you perceive to be a ship of fools it's often hard not to seem so, but militaristic? I think you're projecting the behavior of 'true believers' onto those with better arguments.