“Atheism Needs to Find a Soul” Really?

by | April 22, 2014

MB Humanists tweeted

“Atheism needs to find a soul.” Do you agree or disagree? Why?

and linked to the Billy Dees’ article that prompted the question.

According to Dees

From a public relations standpoint atheists need to be more visible with positive actions and rhetoric that stems from a profound and positive ideology that is all their own. Telling someone that his or her ideas are bad is not presenting alternative concepts. . . . It is time for atheism to find a soul.

Dees spends most of his article trying to define what he calls “the term ‘atheist,’” which according to Dees, “conjures up images of people protesting Christmas mangers”  and criticizing

the more radical ilk of atheists who are doing much harm to such causes as reason and humanity.

Dees singles out American Atheists for its

protests and actions against the 911 Miracle Cross from being included in the new National September 11 Memorial and Museum. An atheist group, American Atheists, has challenged plans to place steel components from the wreckage of the World Trade Center from 911 on public property because it is in the shape of a cross and thus violates the separation of church and state.

Dees tells American Atheists, “Deal with the cross already” and tells “the more radical ilk of atheists” to

Do the unexpected. Be respectful. Stop telling people of faith that what they believe in are fairy tales. There are plenty of skillful ways to logically exhibit the pitfalls of faith after a constructive dialogue is opened.

Instead of claiming that atheism needs to find a soul, Dees should define soul.  According to the Christians everyone has a soul.  If they are wrong, and there are no souls, where would atheism and atheists find one?

Billy Dees is an accommodationist. What  Dees needs to do is stop singing the same refrain: “Be respectful” because atheists need to make it very clear, as Canadian Atheist has done: “A Crossbeam Is Not a Miracle”:

A crossbeam is a beam that spans from one support to another in a in a structure or a building,

No, atheism does not need a soul!

8 thoughts on ““Atheism Needs to Find a Soul” Really?

  1. Bubba Kincaid

    I think radical protests like those mentioned are absolutely vital to protect, at least in a small way, against the more egregious tendencies that self-styled “religious” societies have proven, time and again, they can fall into, and for prolonged extents.

    However, I do also feel that Atheism needs to demonstrate more coherently and visibly that it is, at least somewhat, more immune to falling into those same pitfalls. Afterall, there is something to be said about the power of the fear of an overarching entity with vaguely defined rules for meting out punishment, when it comes to keeping people morally in line. I think one philosopher referred to it as “the panopticon”.

  2. billybob

    “Afterall, there is something to be said about the power of the fear of an overarching entity with vaguely defined rules for meting out punishment, when it comes to keeping people morally in line.”

    Translation: without a belief in a god to control them some people will murder, rape and steal.

    Absolute nonsense, if you disagree go to a mall and start beating on people, you will quickly find out how wrong you are if you survive.

  3. dusttodust

    When you come from a mindset and set of beliefs that has ideologies and dogmas, it seems they can’t help but ascribe to those that don’t that they must have their own ideologies and dogmas.
    An atheist simply doesn’t believe in any of the thousands of gods that have come and gone. No ideology or dogma required. Atheists come from all walks of life…left wing, right wing, communist, capitalist, gay, straight…they just don’t believe in gods. Why does that seem so hard for them to grasp?

  4. Wallace Finch

    I see several topics being confused together. As atheists we need to call attention to the harm done by religion and in doing so also break the “untouchable” bubble that it’s accustomed to being in. No atheists that I know have a problem with “Christmas mangers” but we do have a problem with our government properties favouring one religion over all others (and none) with Christian displays. These are separate topics from how we live as humanists. I live my life in the best way I know how to, volunteering and contributing to society as best I can. I also point out the harm done by religion, and have many different types of conversations about this, with whatever tone seems appropriate for the situation. Some people (believers and non-believers) happen to be angry: I can handle that. Some are confrontational: I can handle that. None of this means that we need to prescribe a dogma or set of rules on everyone.

  5. Pat

    I understand where this Dees fella it coming from but there is so much wrong with this post I’m not sure where to start. Dees states “I avoid the term “atheist.” It conjures up images of people protesting Christmas mangers and that is not my gig.”
    The United States has an official separation of church and state. Atheists weren’t protesting “Christmas mangers” they were protesting a religious display on public property( often to the exclusion of all other displays) in violation of the law. No atheist/ humanist or freethought group I know of has a problem with religious displays on private property. Dees says he is “completely for the separation of church and state” but doesn’t care to do anything to uphold it other than, apparently, vote.

    He goes on to talk about other church state issues then say something completely baffling. “I have had more than one devout atheist give me a lecture on Twitter as to what the term “atheist” really means”… Devout atheist? Really,to not believing?

    He continues “If atheists really believe in the tenants of humanity it is time to be humanistic”.
    I agree as a humanist it’s time we were allot louder about who we are and what we believe. Unfortunately Dees goes and blows it with this: ” So what kind of positive dogma do you have?” ….. HEY DEES, THE LAST THING WE NEED IS ONE DOGMA REPLACING ANOTHER !! positive or negative. We need clear rational thought backed by reason and evidence with a good dose of human empathy,compassion and sense of fairness. NOT dogma. Mr Dees has no idea what humanism is, or how it functions.

    As an atheist Mr Dees and I are of different stripes. I believe we need atheists of all kinds. Gently bringing people to reason,having the conversations we need to have. We also need the atheists that call religion for what it is, a myth. One can believe as they like but If some religious believer doesn’t think the ever-increasing consumption of our natural resources, pollution, global warming is a problem because they’re waiting for Jesus to come back they need to be called on it,ridiculed if need be. Wring your hands all you want Mr Dees,but get out of the way some of us atheists have work to do.

  6. Joe

    I don’t think a definition of soul is necessary here. Whether it’s the ‘spiritual’ atheists, the ‘social justice’ types or even the libertarians, they all seem to want to claim atheism IMPLIES their own idiosyncratic intuitions dealing with emotions, morality and ideology.

    The truth is ‘atheism’ isn’t much. But it’s a word people have rallied around, and they want to keep it pure….according to their own version of it.

    You don’t need dogma to have a statement principle. The united nations declaration of human rights is just such a thing.

    Of course getting people to agree on principles is the hard part. I don’t see atheism going that way though, hopefully not anyway.

    Someday… hopefully… atheism will be completely irrelevant to people’s lives. Then it will just be the political ideologues trying to kill each other.

  7. Chad

    Dees printed an update today acknowledging the great deal of pushback he’s gotten over the article from atheists, particularly over his use of the word “soul.” He defends it as a metaphorical use of a religious term, restating and illustrating his contention that atheism has a “brand image problem.”

    I agree that atheism has a bad rap, but I think the “Out” campaign will be far more effective in changing the “brand” than a wholesale change in tactics. I think we need the use of many different methods to challenge the falsehood and influence of religious belief. When so few people know an ‘out’ atheist personally, why would Dees be surprised at atheism’s “brand image problem?”


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