the neutrality of atheism
I don’t normally write about atheism and belief in God. I believe such discussions should generally be left to the context of personal relationships; public debates on the topic change no one’s opinion (people have almost always made up their mind before the often shrill debates begin).
However after watching Scott Stephens’ Compass interview with The Chaser’s Julian Morrow on the topic of Life’s Big Questions, I thought I would make a brief comment about atheist “non-belief”.
Morrow, speaking about his Jesuit Catholic upbringing, recalls:
So you know that’s a lot of inculcation and indoctrination time that I was exposed to.
… I think it is indoctrination. And I remember seeing it in my little brother; seeing a little baby who had absolutely no conception of these ideas of God or the devil or Jesus or resurrection and they’re simply inculcated into a person to the point that they accept them.
Now, just to be clear, I am a professed follower of Jesus, so of course my perspective is biased. In saying this, I am not interested in debating the existence or non-existence of God; this is a debate for another context.
Instead, I merely wish to ask the question of whether the implied neutrality of atheism as stated by Morrow is valid. After all, Morrow explicitly states that religious information communicated to a child is indoctrination.
This makes a significant assumption; that atheism is a purely negative belief (i.e. it is only a lack of belief, and not an actual belief in and of itself), and by implication should not fall into the label of indoctrination.
So then, is the communication of an atheist worldview to a child not to be considered ‘indoctrination’? Does so-called ‘non-belief’ not equally count as inculcation?
My view would be that there is no such thing as a purely negative belief system. Rejecting one point of belief does not occur in a vacuum; it will always result in another positive belief, and the construction of an alternative symbolic universe (whether or not ‘God’ is a part of it). This is certainly true of atheism, which though rejecting belief in God still forms a web of positive beliefs, often including scientific positivism and naturalism.
So can the rhetoric of atheism’s ‘doctrinal’ neutrality be sustained?
Posted on March 7, 2011, in Culture & Art, Theology and tagged ABC, Atheism, Belief, Compass, Faith, Inculcation, Indoctrination, Julian Morrow, Life's Big Questions, Religion, Scott Stephens, The Chaser's, The Chaser's War on Everything. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.