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Jul 16 2012

On Atheism: So Many, So Wrong, So Often

I’m writing this post in response to a blog post that was published at two different places on 2012 July 10. That post was penned by Elad Nehorai, a writer who lives in Brooklyn, New York. The title of his post was “Atheism Is a Religion.” I find it frustrating that this issue comes up as frequently as it does.

Elad Nehorai’s Article

Mr. Nehorai’s article was published in the Religion section of The Huffington Post as well as at The Algemeiner. I would ordinarily link the title to the article itself, but the author had it removed from both of these sites the very next day.

The original URL for the article at HuffPo, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/elad-nehorai/atheism-is-a-religion_b_1648136.html, now redirects to http://www.huffingtonpost.com/editors-note/removed.html. The text there states, “Editor’s Note: This post has been removed at the request of the blogger.”

Screen capture of Huffington Post page indicating that an article has been removed

The URL for the article at The Algemeiner, http://www.algemeiner.com/2012/07/11/atheism-is-a-religion/, now brings up a “file not found” response from their web server.

Screen capture of The Algemeiner's page indicating that the requested URL could not be found

Some of my acquaintances on Twitter expressed their opinions there about the article to Mr. Nehorai. He responded to them saying, “I actually took down the piece. Too divisive.”

@PopChassid tweet about taking his post down.

I find it both unfortunate and somewhat telling that Mr. Nehorai would attempt to flush his post down the memory hole. Thankfully, the Internet does not forget. The content of the original article is still available from several sources. For some reason I have doubts about the truth of Mr. Nehorai’s honesty when he said that his article was “too divisive.”

Elad Nehorai’s Big Mistake

Why would I doubt his word about the reason he withdrew his article? Quite simply, it’s because I read that article.

He started off well enough:

OK, atheists. Let’s have a talk. Pull up a chair, sit down, relax.

There’s so much I want to say to you in so little time, so let’s just get straight to it.

We’re not so different, you and I. Me, an Orthodox Jew. You, a non-believer. We both argue vehemently for our points of view, we both have a certain vision for the world, we both think we know the truth about life.

I wouldn’t say that I think I know “the truth about life.” Elad’s use of the word ‘know’ has a bearing on this issue that isn’t quite evident until later.

I know that it may be hard to hear, but the truth is that atheism, while supposedly based around logic and intelligence, is a religion just like any other.

Could I have a moment? I'm calling bullshit.

I’m calling bullshit.

Yes, I certainly have to call bullshit right here. Atheism is a religion? We atheists hear this statement time and again, and it’s always the same old bullshit arguments that don’t stand up to scrutiny. Alright, Elad; let’s hear your reasoning.

Now, please, I told you to relax. Have some tea.

But let’s be honest, it’s true.

Let’s look at the arguments atheists make: they say there’s absolutely no evidence for the existence of G-d, and that the burden of proof is on the believers, etc., etc. Now, these are great arguments, and I will be the first to admit that my belief is beyond logic.

That’s right, Elad. Your belief is beyond logic.

But atheism is not agnosticism. It doesn’t claim to simply point out the fallacies of belief. Instead, it has created a belief system out of not believing. It takes a defiant stance, saying that there is absolutely 100 percent no chance there is a god in the world.

Bullshit - Ten points from Gryffindor. Yes, dear friends; bullshit has arrived. Take your penalty, Mr. Nehorai, and be grateful that it’s not in my power to expel you.

How many atheists did Elad Nehorai speak to when researching his post? Does he actually know anyone who self-identifies as an atheist? Has Elad ready any atheist literature from the past fifty years, or perused any atheist blogs or forums? Given his statement regarding what he thinks atheism is, I find it unlikely that Elad has ever had an actual discussion about atheism with an atheist.

Elad is correct: Atheism is not agnosticism. Atheism is the lack of belief in a deity of any kind. Agnosticism deals with whether or not we think we know there is a deity or not, or whether we can have such knowledge. Remember that first section of his post? Elad claims to know what he calls “the truth about life.” That is called gnosticism. I make no such claims. That is called agnosticism.

We’re not as much alike as you seem to think, Elad. Of the many hundreds of atheists I’m acquainted with, I recall only a single person who consistently makes the claim that there is no god. He’s certain. He’s a gnostic atheist, and there aren’t very many of them out there. For myself, I’m an agnostic atheist. I don’t believe, and I’m willing to accept evidence, but I put my lack of belief at about the five sigma level. I find it safe to assume that gods do not exist. I’m certainly not alone in that regard.

There’s no need to read further in Mr. Nehorai’s article. He’s shown that he really has no idea what atheism is. I can’t even give him a “Nice try!”, because it really wasn’t even that.

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