Theism and atheism: a personal view

I was born into a devoted Christian family whose cultural and religious heritage is dominated in many respects by my maternal grandparents. They prospered in a rural Maltese-Sicilian Christian community in northern Queensland in the 1920's. They had an intense devotion to Christianity that prevails to this day among their decedents, the de Brincat-Cavallaro fundamentalist Christians.

But, by the age of 19 years, I had become an atheist. As might be expected, discussions and arguments about the theism-atheism debate led nowhere. It was easier, and more peaceful, to simply avoid such interactions. Some 30 years later, I reached a point were I needed to express, once and for all, my own view. This essay is the result.

I have no intention of persuading anyone to become an atheist and I'm sure that theists will reject my analysis outright. This essay is simply a representation of my personal view of the Theism-Atheism debate. I am posting it here for the benefit of people who might take comfort in finding views that are similar to their own.

I presume that the reader has a similar understanding of the language and concepts involved. For example, the definitions of theism and atheism used are as follows.

theism: belief in a God, or Gods;
atheism: disbelief in, or denial of, the existence of a God.
(Oxford Dictionary)

When specific meanings and definitions are crucial to the main argument, they will be highlighted like this.

This essay analyses the nature of the things which we experience, know or believe. These things will be referred to collectively as ideas.

idea: a picture or notion of anything conceived by the mind; a conception.
(Oxford dictionary)

All of our ideas rest on fundamental assumptions. This applies to ideas that represent scientific knowledge as well as religious and cultural beliefs. Moreover, the status of any idea is no greater than the status of the assumptions upon which it rests.

  • A simple example is the route to go from your hotel in an unfamiliar city to a particular landmark. If your knowledge of the route is based on what a person has told you, then that knowledge rests on the assumption that the person knows the area and is being honest. The status of your idea of the route is equivalent to the status of the person's knowledge and integrity.

In order to develop a meaningful perspective of what our ideas represent, we need to carefully explore the assumptions upon which those ideas rest. This exploration leads naturally to a categorisation of our ideas as having a subjective or objective context. Only by making this distinction can we fully appreciate the value of our ideas and the experiences, knowledge and beliefs they represent.