Friday, November 11, 2011

When You Are Born

When You Are Born

I was having a discussion recently about the word "atheist". It is a label that many non-religious people take on.

I've heard it mentioned that the word "atheist" is interesting because it describes what you are not. For example, being an atheist means you are not a believer in any gods.

Strangely, the existence of the word "atheist" insinuates that being religious is the default position and an atheist somehow chooses to not believe. Of course this is absurd.

Imagine that when you are born, you are born religious. Many problems arise from this scenario. What religion are you? Are you religious in the Christian sense? Are you religious in the Muslim sense? Maybe it is a nondescript religion you are born into?

Typically your religion is defined by your parents or where you are born but moving on from this point, when presented with Christianity and Islam as options, if you don't choose Christianity but choose Islam instead, do you now identify as a non-Christian? No. You identify as a Muslim. This is a positive association. You chose, or were indoctrinated into, Islam. "I am a Muslim", you say proudly.

Of course, the idea of being born religious is really absurd. No-one is born religious. We are exposed to religion as we grow up. As mentioned before, typically this exposure is from our parents or the religious culture of the country or society we are born into. In reality, everyone is an atheist when they are born. The default position is no religious belief and no belief in any gods. So by extension, the word atheist does not need to be defined or even exist.

Religion is not a position you must accept and it is not something that you reject either. If the Christian religion is presented to you, you are not rejecting it if you don't become a Christian.

Typically this is described in terms of a hobby. Not collecting stamps, being a non-stamp collector, is not considered a hobby. I collected stamps when I was a kid, but I chose to collect stamps. Given the myriad of options, I could have collected coins but I wouldn't define myself as a non-stamp collector, or a non-pen collector.

A positive association with a religion or a belief in a god or gods should come with a label. You have chosen to become religious or believe in a god or gods. You can therefore say, "I am a theist" or "I am a Christian" or "I am a Muslim" etc.

Defining a person by what they do not positively associate with, is absurd. Furthermore, any idea that you are born religious is also absurd.

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