For some reason, this post from February 2014 has been getting a lot of hits lately. No idea why it’s being read again, but I thought I’d repost it anyway.
I had a conversation with someone the other day in which I was completely wrong.
Which is, and I realise that I run the risk of sounding like a bit of a wanker here, quite unusual. That’s not because I am wise and all knowing and a total pantomath but more because I very very rarely argue fervently on position unless I am totally certain that I’m right.
The conversation was about faith*, in a general sense and I swore absolutely blind that atheists don’t just think that there are no God/ gods but are actually materialists too, and that being an atheist means that you have no truck with the soul/ghosts/NDEs or any of that woo-woo type stuff.
The person I was speaking to apparently found this very illuminating and, convinced by my earnest explanation, decided that I must be totally right. So imagine my surprise and embarrassment when later in the day I picked up a book and discovered that atheism and materialism are not synonymous.
I know that when I decided that there wasn’t a god and became an atheist, I absolutely became a materialist as well. I realised that if I was going to reject the fantasy of God then I was also going to also abandon the belief in all the accouterments that I felt went along with it; souls, ghosts, ESP, reincarnation and the like. From what I remember I thought it was bloody obvious that the rejection of one would involve the rejection, domino like, of all the rest.
In fact I clearly remember thinking ‘Well if God doesn’t exist then neither do ghosts! Now I can go to graveyards at night!’. I can see why I made that assumption. It makes sense to me that if you are going to reject God due to claims of rationality and a lack of scientific proof then surely it does make more sense for all atheists to be materialists. But hey, I’m no poster child for rationality, I’ve just decided that the weight of evidence falls in favour of reincarnation.
So I’m a little surprised now to realise that I was actually wrong and that an atheist can still believe in say, reincarnation. Actually it turns out that a close friends of mine does take this position- she believes in reincarnation and the power of prayer but not God. So technically she is an atheist. But she believes in the soul.
So anyway I had to ring my friend and admit that I’d been totally wrong and he said that he’d been re-thinking reality in light of my very convinced sounding claims and I thanked him for thinking so highly of my apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate claims and there was laughter all round.
Of course when it all boils down, it doesn’t matter what you believe or how you label yourself. Just that^.
*(not my faith of course because that’s something that I just don’t discuss with people because a) no ones interested and… no, that’s it. I don’t know anyone in real life who likes to talk about faith. Hence; blog