At one time I probably would have agreed with a call for a theology of atheism. But now this strikes me as both absurd and unneeded.
Sure, I've got a blog called Church of the Churchless. That sort of sounds like the same thing. Aren't I trying to foster a belief system for people who don't believe in God or the supernatural?
This might have been part of my motivation when I started this blog back in 2004. Hard for me to say. I'm a considerably different person now than I was back then, just as I'm a slightly different person today than I was yesterday.
Now, I view knowledge and experience of the natural world -- the one we're born in, live in, and die in -- as all that's needed to get through life successfully, happily, wisely.
Atheism simply is the absence of a belief in the existence of a god or gods. This word is needed because most people do believe in a god or gods, and their beliefs strongly shape human cultures and societies.
There isn't such a term for people who don't play golf.
They simply are people who don't play golf. For avid golfers, that game is really important to them. However, non-golfers don't feel a need to come up with a coherent explanation for why they don't play golf.
They just don't play golf. Instead, they do other things.
So the notion of a theology of atheism strikes me as being similar: unnecessary. Atheists are just people who don't believe in the existence in god or gods. Instead, they believe in other things. Like the obvious reality of the natural world.
Molly Worthen, though, has a piece in the New York Times called "Wanted: A Theology of Atheism."
As nonbelievers tangle with traditional Christians over same-sex marriage and navigate conflicts between conservative Muslims and liberal democracy, they will need a confident humanist moral philosophy. The secular humanist liberation movement, in its zeal to win over religious America, should not encourage nonbelievers to turn away from their own intellectual heritage at the time when they will want it most.
OK. This makes pretty good sense to me. What bothers me about Worthen's essay is the attitude reflected in this passage:
Atheism, like any ideological position, has political and moral consequences. As nonbelievers become a more self-conscious subculture, as they seek to elect their own to high office and refute the fear that a post-Christian America will slide into moral anarchy, they will need every idea their tradition offers them.
In line with how I started out this post, I don't see atheism as being an "ideological position." Rather, it is the absence of one.
The "idea their tradition offers them" is simply knowledge and experience of the natural world. In other words, reality.
Why is there a need to justify a belief in reality rather than illusion, in truth rather than falsehood?