On my recent blog post, I received an interesting comment from John L. Knight, who said:
I think there is no such thing as an atheist. By default, people set them self up as deity…without even knowing it. Anyone who think they are in control of their destiny is claiming self sovereignty…to be a god.
This is another one of those atheist myths that needs to be opposed at every opportunity. Thanks John for providing that opportunity, and I will do my best to address your statement. Hopefully, it will help you understand atheism a bit better so that you can engage them in meaningful dialogue in the future.
I find that theists often try to change or water down the meaning of a word so they can accuse atheists of something that isn’t true. This is one of those times. In order to accuse an atheist of worshiping themselves, you have to bend the meaning of the word ‘worship’ to a horrendous degree.
So here is the actual definition of the word:
: the act of showing respect and love for a god especially by praying with other people who believe in the same god : the act of worshipping God or a god
: excessive admiration for someone
The first one is clearly not true. An atheist doesn’t believe in God(s) so showing respect or love for such a being would be out of the question. The second definition would mean that all atheists would have to show excessive admiration for themselves, which is patently absurd. I’m sure there are some atheists who have an undeserved high opinion of themselves, but this number would be small. As an atheist myself, I can assure you that I don’t have excessive admiration for myself. I don’t loathe myself but I definitely know I have faults and weaknesses, just like anyone else.
Also, atheism is merely a lack of belief in a deity. To say that one must worship something is incorrect. I can only surmise that it’s because some theists can’t imagine a person who doesn’t need to say magic rituals or believe in an invisible deity to feel worth in this life. Basically, John is making the assumption that all people must worship a God of some type (like John himself) and if they don’t, then they must replace that with something else – such as worshiping themselves.
Funny, I still don’t have a shrine to myself. I don’t sing hymns to myself. I don’t pray to myself. There is no book of ‘Mike’ with dogma laid out for myself. I don’t see any monuments erected on courthouse lawns proclaiming the Ten Mike-isms to the world. I’m still waiting for a country to inscribe ‘In Mike We Trust’ on their money, but I don’t see that happening any time soon. I’m fairly certain I don’t worship myself and that no one else worships me, and I’m fine with that. I think worship is highly overrated and completely unnecessary.
To make the claim that ‘by default people set themselves up as a deity’, even calls into question what John considers a deity. Does he think being human qualifies someone as a deity? Does he think all atheists view themselves as infallible? Does he think all atheists have magic powers and can walk on water?
To make such a claim, John either has a weird idea of what constitutes a deity worthy of worship, or he is simply parroting something he’s been taught to regurgitate, every time he’s faced with atheism.
John claims that simply thinking you’re in control of your destiny, somehow means you’re claiming self-sovereignty.
Personally, I don’t think I’m totally in control. For example, I might have every intention of going to the gym in five minutes. I get up from this computer desk, grab my gym clothes, walk outside and get hit by a car in the parking lot. I certainly didn’t ask to be run over. I don’t think I have god-like powers that would allow me to teleport the hell out of there. I wouldn’t say I’m in control, either. There are some things within our ability to control and many things that fall outside of that ability.
In order to claim that atheists worship themselves, John must stretch and redefine words. He must make the word ‘worship’ nearly meaningless, and ironically, even cheapen the word he uses to describe how he shows his adoration for his own deity.
Finally, atheists clearly exist, John. We’re not going away. Not everyone feels the need to get on their knees to an invisible deity. We’re happy saying, ‘I don’t know’, when faced with something we have no possible way of knowing.