This blog is dedicated to what I have chosen to call 'Pragmatic Atheism'. I consider this a third option about belief in God as distinct from the standard two options of 'scientific atheism' and 'religious theism'. Pragmatic Atheism is a lack of belief in God, or divine/supernatural concepts of any kind, based on regular everyday reasoning that is available to anyone and everyone, not just those familiar with the institution of science. Reason is much bigger than just 'scientific reason', which is actually a very specific kind of reasoning, and not even the most common. Advances in science have indeed done much to conquer the hold of theism onto global culture for centuries. We as modern atheists must recognize the contributions of science for our 'cause'. However, science is not really the only game in town in terms of critical thinking and open minded questioning and skepticism. Further, since science is very much an institution and a set of specialized professions, it is unclear that it is even the best approach as a basis for a more general atheism in modern culture. Science can only do or say so much about the issue of the existence of God. For what it can do, we should appeal to it, but the limits must be recognized and overcome for reason to win. Pragmatic Atheism seeks to do just that, go beyond the limits of science's input into the God debate, and build a broader and more far reaching basis for atheistic/rational thought.
I should also point out that there is a notion of 'pragmatic atheism' that is in current circulation that differs from mine. On this usage of the phrase it is considered synonymous with 'apatheism', which is the view that the whole question of God's existence or non-existence is irrelevant to human life and action in general. Let me be clear that this is NOT what I mean by 'pragmatic atheism'. First of all, I think the question of God's existence or not is very important to a person's life and it is highly relevant to how they behave. Secondly, since the term 'apatheism' is already a perfectly good term for the notion of God questions being irrelevant, I would like to liberate the phrase 'pragmatic atheism' toward a much more positive view about the non-existence of God. My usage of the phrase 'pragmatic atheism' is twofold. I gave one usage above, which is that we can use common sense reasoning to come to our denial of God's existence. This notion is appropriately called 'pragmatic' because it is similar to both C.S. Peirce and William James's approaches to pragmatism (my influence from both of these thinkers often shines through in my blog postings). I also use the phrase 'pragmatic atheism' in a stronger sense, that is a full inversion and rejection of one of William James's favorite ideas. James thought that belief in God was a pragmatically useful concept in that it could make a person feel better and contribute positively to their life by believing it. In this sense James could be called a 'pragmatic theist'. I deny his claim, and rather hold that atheism is a much more positive and useful way to approach one's own life and the world. Theism is a detriment to the individual and to society at large. Even if theism had ever been a useful concept (which I don't think it was), then it has certainly outlived that usefulness (e.g. religion being used as a justification for so much hate and war, and the source of great inner turmoil and cognitive dissonance within individuals). Pragmatic atheism then, on this usage, should be taken as a therapeutic and liberating approach for everyone within themselves and for human civilization as a whole.