Friday, September 13, 2013

What atheism really means

IN LAST Saturday's Supper Club interview ("'I told the minister to send me to jail'"), pastor Lawrence Khong was quoted as saying "an atheist is very religious. He has a belief system. He believes there is no God".
As the founding president of the Humanist Society (Singapore), I call myself an atheist, as do many of our members, and we find Mr Khong's understanding of the term both incorrect and misleading.
The prefix "a" in front of "theism" does not mean "the opposite of" or "against". It simply refers to the absence of theism.
As atheist comedian Ricky Gervais wittily puts it: "Saying atheism is a belief system is like saying not going skiing is a hobby. I have never been skiing. It's my biggest hobby. I literally do it all the time."
Atheism is not a belief system; it merely describes the absence of belief in god(s).
Such misunderstandings of the term "atheism", of which Mr Khong's is but one example, are very common. It is partly due to the need to correct such misconceptions that the Humanist Society (Singapore) was formed.
Paul Tobin