Saturday, October 29, 2011

Radical!!! - Part 2: Radical Atheism

This is looking to become a 5-part series. Links will be added as the posts become available. Part 1  Part 3  Part 4  Part 5

   In part 1, I discussed how radicals automatically get a bad name, whether or not they deserve it. In another recent post, I discussed how atheism cannot be a religion. I am here now to combine these two ideas.

   The first point that needs to be made is that there is a second definition of the word "radical" that I did not cover before. That definition is "Arising from or going to a root or source; basic." Since atheism is simply a lack of belief in a god or gods and there are no governing codes, this definition cannot be applied to the word "atheism". Nor can the other definition I used in Part 1 be applied. How does one favor fundamental changes in something that is merely a lack of belief?

   Therefore, the term "radical atheist" does not make sense in terms of atheism. I have thus been telling people that a radical atheist cannot exist. However, I must correct myself. I should be pointing out that a radical atheist does not exist in the way that they imply - that the person is radical in their atheism. On the other hand, atheist is a term that describes a person, and so can the word radical. You then can have a person who is both a radical and lacks a belief in gods. You could call this person a "radical atheist."

   If the problem doesn't make sense yet, I'll try to explain it another way. Essentially, the issue is that a term used to describe a type of person following the word "radical" does not have to be entirely dependent, making it near impossible to distinguish when it is fully dependent and when it is not. For example, you can have people who are radical about their Christianity since it does have a root, practices, etc. In this case, Christianity would be fully dependent on the word "radical." (Or do I have that backward? Is the word "radical" fully dependent on Christianity? Hopefully you get the point, though.) You can also have a person who is radical about something because of their Christian influences, but not necessarily radical when it comes to Christianity; this is a big deal in politics today (though many of those people also want to see the moderation of Christianity stopped and reversed, thus they are radical about multiple things). In this case, the words are not fully independent nor fully dependent. But both of these people could be called "radical Christians". The term is ambiguous.

   It is that ambiguity that is my issue. People really need to clarify what they mean, and using short descriptions often fails to do that. If a person is a political radical influenced by their Christianity, then say that. Don't just say they are a "radical Christian." If you think I am a political radical influenced by my lack of belief in gods (my atheism), then say that. I'll mostly agree to that one. (The only objection I would raise is that there are other influences as well, so to try to pin my radical influences to one specific thing is incorrect.) It's when you get lazy and just say, "You're a radical atheist" that I get upset, because I don't know what the fuck you mean. Are you using the terms fully dependent on each other? (Which is not correct, as noted above.) Are you using them to be partially dependent? Then what is the rest of the dependency? I don't know how to respond to that! Other than, "That's a piss poor term to use." And this post is my long way of saying just that.

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