Randal Rausner’s claim that most atheists don’t know what atheism is.
The argument goes something like this (please don’t bother correcting this if you think otherwise, it is considered rude on-line to demolish someone else’s straw-man): Rausner writes:
“To be sure, they are able to say in a piecemeal fashion “I don’t believe in Yahweh, Thor or Allah…” but they can’t get down to the essence and provide a succinct definition of the type of which each of these is a token”.
He then proceeds to enlighten the self styled atheists with:
“But don’t ever say I only curse the darkness. Let me light a candle by helping the confused atheists out there. Theism is minimally the position that the ultimate cause of everything that contingently exists is an agent cause. Thus, God is minimally the ultimate agent cause of everything that contingently exists.”
and so by his definition the one true atheism is the denial of this.
Unfortunately language (other than in France) is defined by its use not by a dictionary. Dictionary definitions follow usage not the other way around. Rausner’s definition is close to that of Deism and in fact I have no argument with Deists, and I believe that most atheists would have no argument with them. We might argue about what exactly we mean by a first cause, or if the concept even makes any sense and/or whether we need one or not, but this is a friendly argument among friends.
The trouble starts when using just the assumption of a first cause you attempt to deduce the “truths” of an allegedly revealed religion. Especially those revealed religions that have when they could (or still can) resort to such arguments as threats backed up by beatings, torture, beheading, burning-at the-stake, stoning …
I describe myself as an atheist, but in reality I could also be described as a deist; I think there is some ineffable mystery about existence (but I don’t know any more about it: that’s what ineffable means, and nor do I believe you when you claim you do). But the difference between these positions has no practical consequence, so I stick with the more commonly used term (possibly because is pisses-off so many followers of revealed religions). The source of knowledge claimed by the main religions is unacceptable, and as far as I can see cannot be made so.
We may observe that Rausner does not subscribe to the minimal theist position but as a follower of some evangelical version of Christianity hence subscribes to some baroquely embroidered theist position.
Truth claims must be backed up by convincing arguments, revelation and warm feelings are not good enough, nor are arguments from common belief, authority, …
It is often asked why secularists are so angry, well one answer is that our predecessors lived in a world where freedom of though and speech were forbidden, and we are not going back.