CW, you are the CEO and Founder of the Philosophical Atheism online community. How did this idea come about?
I wanted to create a forum for people to discuss complicated philosophical concepts based in reason, evidence, understanding, and proper argumentation. We also joke, laugh, and educate ourselves as we go. I am excited that it has become so popular. We have a lot of fun and learn a lot about life while doing it.
How do you believe the two relate? Is there a need for atheists to be philosophical and for philosophers to be atheists?
To be without religion is a beginning, but to better navigate life without a god or gods, we need a decent philosophy to live by. Some atheists are nihilists, while others are humanists. I prefer to say that we all create meaning for our own lives, as we see fit. To do this, we need good philosophy and there is plenty for us to learn. Philosophical Atheism helps people do this.
What does Philosophical Atheism do to promote its values?
We constantly encourage people to question their beliefs. We have recently partnered with the Atheist Alliance of America to make a better world based on our shared values. Their vision is to transform society into one that supports a worldview based on reason, empiricism, and naturalism.
You were a conservative Christian for 17 years. How, and why, did you become an atheist?
I read the Bible many times. I used to proselytize to people and became quite adept at Christian apologetics. I had to do this because it kept me believing. However, by continuing to defend in my gut what I felt were faulty thinking processes, I acknowledged much about the psychology behind many believers that disturbed me. With this in mind, I increased my understanding of psychology, philosophy, and other religions, including Eastern ones. This led me to know that my feelings were correct and had clear, valid reasons for why these people were wrong. This research also helped me understand why their actions played out the way they did. It was liberating, but also difficult because I had to leave everything I knew. Philosophical Atheism was a creation of this transition, to help others avoid floundering as long as I did before my own de-conversion.
You are also at the Executive Director and Director of Social Media of the Atheist Alliance of America (AAoA). What are the main goals of the AAoA as well as its largest activities and initiatives?
As I mentioned before, AAoA’s vision is to transform society into one that supports a worldview based on reason, empiricism, and naturalism. To achieve this, we are working on uniting as many of the atheist communities in the Unites States as we can. For those who do not join us, we will still strive to support when needed. We want to provide a service to the atheist community and the general public that helps them both understand and value logic as a proper reasoning process to build their world view upon. This includes spreading values based off secular humanism, which promotes equal rights for all, based upon our status as humans and not god or gods people may or may not follow.
Which do you think are the main challenges that atheism faces in today’s world?
I think the main challenge is the fact that we have to be called atheists at all. Atheism is an off switch to a widely accepted epidemic of people believing in a god or gods without proper foundations of reasoning, evidence, and understanding. They do not seem to understand that you cannot start with a conclusion, then build evidence backwards to support that claim. It leads to many gaps in knowledge unknowingly built upon fallacies like confirmation bias or gods being accepted as an explanation for missing pieces in our understanding of the cosmos (also known as “god of the gaps”). Moving forward with evidence not based on a pre-determined conclusion helps to show us that there are many things we still do not know, but, if you are like me, would love to find out. There are many things we do not yet understand about ourselves and our cosmos, but I find no fear in that; I actually find it quite thrilling. We have to stop thinking as a species that we must have answers to all of life’s questions. This is our biggest problem and why atheism exists in the first place, because people decided that they must know things they cannot.
What do you think is the best response to religious fundamentalism?
I think the best response to fundamentalism is through education, with the goal of changing people’s hearts and minds. We should help people realize that they are pretending to know things they cannot possibly know and that it is okay not to have answers for some of the most difficult existential questions. To start this, we first need to reach the more reasonable liberals and moderates. They are the ones, through their silence or support, who provide fundamentalists with credibility, that people must respect people’s beliefs no matter what. One of the biggest mistakes we make is giving beliefs unassailable rights, instead of people, which place them beyond the scope of criticism. Beliefs are not people; people are not their beliefs. This is how fundamentalism is allowed to run rampant. Moderate believers don’t want to call into question what may be wrong about their own reasoning processes.
What is the best piece of advice you would give to people who are unsure about their faith and are now balancing between theism and atheism?
I would encourage them to explore other religions. Many of them contradict each other. Rather than thinking that one of them must be right, I encourage them to accept the more likely possibility that they could all be wrong. Also, to start realizing that the reason something must be called faith is because it is not knowledge. This is a huge red flag in itself that invites more investigation.
Finally, how can one contact you to learn more about your projects, initiatives, and how to join or donate to AAoA and Philosophical Atheism?
For more information please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit philosophicalatheism.com, and to help support our cause please consider a donation or signing for a membership atheistallianceamerica.org/membership/.
Angelos is a Philosophy (MA) student at the University of Durham, UK. He writes on philosophy, religion, politics, and science.