Browsing the latest issue of the Humanist Network News, I found myself browsing an article by Warren Allen Smith. His online encyclopedia of freethinkers, Philosopedia, defines apatheism (a portmanteau of atheism and apathy), as a subset of atheism, when atheism is defined as lack of belief in deities, rather than specific disbelief in deities. “An apatheist (AP-uh-thee-ist) is someone who is not interested in accepting or denying any claims that God, or any other supernatural being, exists or does not exist. In other words, an apatheist is someone who considers the question of the existence of God as neither meaningful nor relevant to human affairs.”
I came to atheism after years of reflection and by what seems to me, appropriately, to be a quite evolutionary process. I certainly would say that I possess a lack of belief in deities. I suppose I have yet to consider whether I also possess a specific disbelief in deities. But, just because I do not believe deities exist, nor that any proof of their existence could be offered, I think it would be slightly presumptuous of me to profess a disbelief in deities.
So, the question now is whether or not I consider the existence of God as a meaningful notion or as relevant to human affairs. Let me start simply. The existence of God has no meaning to me. And, I certainly believe that peoples’ belief in the existence of God has led to some of the greatest miseries of humanity in the millennia since the inception of civilized society. On the other hand, belief in the existence of God has also created great beauty and motivate some people to incredible acts of generosity, kindness, and courage.
Therefore, I think the more relevant question is, should the existence of God continue to be a meaningful notion? I would answer that question categorically in the affirmative. I believe that humanity has outgrown its continued belief in the existence of God, just as children outgrow their need to believe in many myths and fairy tales to assuage their guilt or ease their fears of the unknown. I believe that a continued belief in the existence of God will eventually lead to more “just” wars with unjust underlying motives professed by preaching hypocrites with sacred texts in one hand and clubs and stock portfolios in the other hand.
Given that no one can wave a magic wand and excise the notion of God from human memory, one must surely admit that the existence of God has been, is today, and will likely continue to be relevant to human affairs. So the question of whether or not it should be relevant is, in my opinion, moot. The answer, therefore, lies in religious education and in the provision of effective affective worship experiences that do not require a believe in God. I have spent many years committed to the education of our youth in the ways of critical thinking and assessment of moral issues based on Unitarian Universalist principles. And, as a developing minister, I am now committing myself to the creation of worship experiences that are effective and that produce in participants an affect that is as powerful, if not more powerful, than that produced by the purveyors of the God myth.
So, am I an apatheist. Not yet and perhaps never. As a minister, I must care about the impact that peoples’ belief in the existence of God has on society, and I must respond by offering religious people an atheistic option to pursue their spiritual paths and to share worshipful experiences with others.