Over at The Friendly Atheist, a probing question is pondered. What do atheists believe in?. This is a question I’ve also heard from time to time, so I thought I’d see if I could do anything with it. The Friendly Atheist states:
It’s really just a bad question. Just because we don’t believe in a God doesn’t mean we don’t believe in anything. And just because someone says they do believe in God doesn’t mean we know anything else about them.
I’ve said here before that, of an by itself, atheism is not necessarily for anything. It is simply lacking a belief in a supernatural being that is possibly desirous of our worship, Often, for many of us, the path to atheism is a journey which sharpens ones toolkit towards answering questions and facing the complexities of life and the universe as it is. But really, for those atheists who have considered what their atheism is, a short and correct answer is that we believe in a likely vanishing probability for the existence of any god or gods, for some suitable definition of a god which probably includes such things as supernatural transcendence, or some such.
Beyond that is beyond the scope of bare bones atheism, but many of us do go beyond anyway. Obviously I can not speak for everyone, but I believe in the power of a human mind to collaborate with other human minds to examine the evidence to ascertain how the universe works. I believe collaboration is necessary because, as Richard Feynman noted, the easiest person to fool is yourself (What looks to be an interesting but speculative book that touches on this topic is Why We Lie by David Livingstone Smith. Something on my to buy list.). I believe in the freedom to question assumptions to see if they survive the fire of critical grilling. I believe that working together as a society, there are many problems we can solve, and there is much we will continue to learn and accomplish (We have the evidence to back this up). I believe that part of the toolkit that enables us to have such a society is human compassion and doing unto others as we would have done to us. Further, I believe that no religious structure or belief system in the supernatural is necessary for us to perceive this. It is part of who we are.