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Thursday, February 22, 2024

Introducing the non–theist life stances

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Naturalism: This is the idea of belief that only natural (as opposed to supernatural or spiritual) laws and forces operate in in the world; that nothing exists beyond the natural world. Adherents of naturalism, known as naturalists assert that natural laws are the rules that govern the structure and behaviour of the natural universe, that the changing universe at every stage is a product of these laws.


Rationalism: This is the new view that regards reason as the chief source and test of knowledge or any view applying to reason as a source of knowledge or justification. It is formally defined as a methodology or a theory in which the criterion of truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive. Rationalists believe that reality has an intrinsically logical structure. Rationalists argue that certain truths exist and that the intellect can directly grasp these truths. Generally, rationalist assert that certain rational principles exist in logic, mathematics, ethics, and metaphysics that are so fundamentally true that denying them causes one to fall into contradiction. Rationalists have high confidence in reason; that proof and physical evidence are unnecessary to ascertain truth and that there are significant ways in which our concepts and knowledge are gained independent of sense experience. Based on this, ’empiricism’ is one of rationalism’s greatest rivals. 

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Empiricism: This is the theory which states that knowledge comes only or particularly from sensory experience, one of the several views of epistemology (the study of human knowledge), along with rationalism and skepticism. Empiricism emphasises the role of experience and evidence, especially sensory experience in the formation of ideas or traditions. Empiricists may argue that traditions (or customs) arise due to relations of previous experience. Empiricism in the philosophy of science emphasises evidence, especially as discovered in experiments. It is a fundamental part of the scientific method that all hypotheses and theories must be tested against observations of the natural world rather than resting solely on a priori reasoning, intuition or revelation.


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Skepticism: This is generally any questioning attitude towards knowledge, facts or opinions and beliefs stated as facts, or doubts regarding claims that are taken for granted elsewhere. Philosophical skepticism is an overall approach that requires all information to be well supported by evidence.  Religious skepticism, on the other hand, is doubt concerning basic religious principles, such as immorality, providence and revelation. Adherents of skepticism are known as skeptics. 


Free-Thought: This is a philosophical viewpoint which holds that positions regarding truth should be formed on the basis of logic, reason, and empiricism, rather than authority, tradition or other dogmas. The cognitive application of free–thought is known as free–thinking and the practitioners of free-thought are known as free–thinkers. Free–thought holds that individuals should not accept ideas proposed as truth without recourse to knowledge and reason. Thus, free–thinkers strive to build their opinions on the bases of facts, scientific inquiry, and logical principles independent of any logical fallacies or the intellectually limiting efforts of authority, confirmation bias, cognitive bias, conventional wisdom, popular culture, prejudice, sectarianism, tradition, urban legend and all other dogmas. Regarding religion, free–thinkers are of the view point that there is insufficient evidence to support the existence of supernatural phenomena. 


Agnosticism: This is the view that the truth-value of certain claims, especially claims about the existence or non–existence of any deity (God or gods) as well as other religious and metaphysical claims are unknown or unknowable.  In the popular sense, according to William L Rowe, an agnostic is someone who neither believes nor disbelieves in the existence of a deity or deities (God or gods). Whereas, a theist and an atheist believe and disbelieve respectively. Thomas Henry Huxley, an English biologist, coined the word’ agnostic’ in 1869. However, earlier thinkers have written works that promoted agnostic points of view. These thinkers include Sanjaya Belatthaputta, a 5th century BC Indian philosopher who expressed agnosticism about any afterlife. Protagoras, a 5th century BC Greek philosopher was agnostic about the gods. Since the time that Huxley coined the term, many other thinkers have extensively written about agnosticism.  

Atheism: This is a lack of belief in God and gods. Atheism is not a belief system nor is it a religion. Atheism is in a broader sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of a deity or deities (God or gods). In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities. Most inclusively, atheism is the absence of belief that any deities exist. Atheism is contrasted with theism, which in its most general form is the belief that at least one deity exists. 

According the US-based human rights organisation, Human Rights Watch, atheists are being defined as terrorists under a draft of new Saudi Arabia laws. The new laws are said to be accompanied by a series of related royal decrees which appear to criminalise virtually all dissident thought or expression as terrorism according to the Human Rights Watch report.


Secular humanism: This posits that human beings are capable of being ethical and moral without religion or God. It does not, however assume that humans are not either inherently evil or innately good, nor does it present humans as being superior to nature. Rather, the humanist life stance emphasises the unique responsibility facing humanity and the ethical consequences of human decisions. Fundamental to the concept of secular humanism is the strong hold view that ideology, be it religion or political, must be thoroughly examined by each individual and not simply accepted or rejected on faith.  Along with this, an essential part of secular humanism is a continually adapting search for truth, primarily through science and philosophy.  The adherents of secular humanism are referred to humanists. 


Secularism: This is a principle, not a life stance. It is the principle of separation of government institutions and persons mandated to represent the state from religious institutions and dignitaries. One of its manifestations is the assertion of the right to be free from religious rules and teachings, or, in a state declared to be neutral on matters of belief, from the imposition by government of religion or religious practices upon its people. Another of secularism’s manifestations is the view that public activities and decisions, especially political ones should not be influenced by religious beliefs and or practices. The principle is, in other words, referred to as ‘separation of church and state, (mosque and state) state and religion. Adherents of the principle can be either religious or non–religious and are known as secularists.


By Ebou Sohna


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