Challenging Religious Faith
I read the article by Gitau Warigi (DN May, 4, 2014) with great deal of interest. I was not surprised though. I found it curious that Gitau dismisses the idea that I am an Atheist by suggesting that Atheism cannot be based on a rejection of religious text. He then calls me an agnostic. He further goes ahead to suggest that Atheism is a ‘very serious business’. According to Gitau, a serious Atheist can only be someone like Stephen Hawkings, or Richard Dawkins, people who are also renowned scientists and publishers. As long as one is not in their ‘league’, one cannot be a serious Atheist. Gitau merely represents the great majority of Kenyans who have a narrow, often distorted understanding of Atheism. Atheism, even in Kenya’s “liberal” atmosphere, is still somewhat unacceptable. Simply being an atheist may be acceptable if, that is, one keeps it to oneself. What is frequently considered inappropriate is to advertise this fact, or openly to attack religious doctrines. Atheism is probably the least popular—and least understood—philosophical position in Kenya today. It is often approached with fear and mistrust, as if one were about to investigate a doctrine that advocates a wide assortment of evils—from immorality, pessimism and communism to outright nihilism. So what is atheism? Why am I an Atheist?
“Theism” is defined as the “belief in a god or gods.” The term “theism” is sometimes used to designate the belief in a particular kind of god—the personal god of monotheism—but it also signifies the belief in any god or number of gods. The prefix “a” means “without,” so the term “a-theism” literally means “without theism,” or without belief in a god or gods. Atheism, therefore, is the absence of theistic belief. One who does not believe in the existence of a god or supernatural being is properly designated as an atheist. Atheism is sometimes defined as “the belief that there is no God of any kind,” or the claim that a god cannot exist. While these are categories of atheism, they do not exhaust the meaning of atheism—and they are somewhat misleading with respect to the basic nature of atheism. Atheism, in its basic form, is not a belief: it is the absence of belief. An atheist is not primarily a person who believes that a god does not exist; rather, he does not believe in the existence of a god.
It is not my purpose to convert people to atheism; such efforts are usually futile. As an Atheist, I want to demonstrate that the belief in god is irrational to the point of absurdity; and that this irrationality, when manifested in specific religions such as Christianity, is extremely harmful. While attempting to demonstrate that a belief is irrational, one can take various forms. In my article, and my TV interviews, I have focused on the biblical text, for good reasons. Many Kenyan Christians believe that the Bible represent god’s divine message. The bible, to majority of Kenyan’s, is a book of divine truth. It is therefore follows that anyone who want to challenge a belief in the existence of ‘god’, refer to the ‘divine’ text itself.
Let me deal with the meaning of the word agnostic; and this is what Gitau would wish that I was. The term “agnostic” does not, in itself, indicate whether or not one believes in a god. It is commonly used to designate one who refuses either to affirm or deny the existence of a god. Because atheism is frequently associated with the outright denial of theism, agnosticism is offered as a third alternative. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “An agnostic is not an atheist. An atheist denies the existence of God; an agnostic professes ignorance about His existence. For the latter, God may exist, but reason can neither prove nor disprove it.”
Finally, while I have quoted the bible many times, George H. Smith, in his book ‘The Case Against God’ squarely places the conflict between theism and atheism. He argues, and I agree, that the debate about god centers on the existence or non-existence of a god. This issue involves two major branches of philosophical inquiry: metaphysics and epistemology. Metaphysics is the study of reality. Metaphysics deals with such concepts as matter, consciousness and causality. Epistemology is “the study or theory of the origin, nature, methods, and limits of knowledge. Epistemology deals with such concepts as truth, falsity, certainty and error.
I have argued in various discussions against the idea of god based on metaphysical and epistemological basis. I however view bible as a book that depicts a god that is vengeful, murderous and mundane. The biblical god deserves no worship by any rational man.