Atheism and Forteana are NOT Incompatible

atheist_concreteI get asked on a fairly regular basis how I can be passionate about and spend much of my time studying Forteana, whilst being a baby-eating atheist.

I wanted to take this opportunity to answer this once and for all, and to clear up a few glaring and common misconceptions.

Atheist: noun – A person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings.

It’s a pretty simple definition, but for whatever reason, most people you meet can’t understand it.  To lay it out in the simplest terms I can, it means simply that I don’t believe in God (any of them).  Now, that isn’t me redefining the word to fit my agenda.  That is, in fact, the only thing is has ever meant.

Of course, a lot of people won’t agree with that, but popular opinion has no impact on facts.  It really doesn’t matter what anyone wants to project onto the term, regardless of who they are.  It still only means I don’t believe in God.

A couple of those things it doesn’t mean are:

  • I hate God
  • I hate religion
  • I’m a Nazi
  • I worship the “devil”
  • I’m a “Skeptic”
  • I don’t believe in magic/superstition/the paranormal/unexplained phenomena
  • I’m a scientist
  • I’m a nihilist

It’s important to understand though, that anyone who calls themselves an atheist, can also be any of the above.  But none of these ideas are mutually inclusive.  It’s also important to understand one other thing…the word atheist is spelled with a lower case ‘a’, not a capital.  That’s because it’s a noun, not a title or a proper name.

There are communities, or social movements, that have coopted the word to be used as a name, such as New Atheism (AKA Atheism+).  For the most part, they stand apart from the majority of people who might qualify as atheist.  This is not only because they seek to redefine what the word means, but also because they seek to create a sectarian collective of like-minded people, with which to affect social change, of whatever nature.

As I said, being an atheist means only that I don’t believe in God, it doesn’t mean I belong to any group, community or club.

It also doesn’t mean that my academic and literary pursuits are incompatible in any way.

The only element of Forteana that could possibly be affected by it, is the notion of the afterlife, but even then, it’s a negligible effect.  The most common conception of an afterlife is that which is associated with monotheistic, Abrahamic religions, which is decidedly chauvinistic.  What a seriously narrow view of the subject that is.  Granted, I’m not particularly fond of the subject of ghosts, but this has less to do with the afterlife than it does with the way most people approach the subject.

Here’s where I can overlook some of the confusion I see.  I am a science enthusiast.  Not only do I love the products of cutting edge science, both theoretical and practical, but I have a deep understanding of the process; how it works, why it works, and what its limitations are.  But that has nothing to do with me being an atheist.  It has everything to do with my education and knowledge base.

That being said, I am of the opinion that any experience, thing, phenomenon, or element of our reality can and will eventually be explained by science.  After all, magic is just science we haven’t yet figured out.  Feel free to disagree with me all you like, this is where the discussion begins, but please don’t drag unrelated ideas into the fray.

So, the next time I’m asked how I can reconcile my atheism with my love of Forteana, I shall refer to this post.  It may or may not clear up any misconceptions, but at the very least it clarifies my position.


4 thoughts on “Atheism and Forteana are NOT Incompatible

  1. The amount of times I get told I can’t be interested in Forteana unless I believe in certain things is unbelievable! I’m not actually an atheist, but like you say – I think that ‘magic’ is essentially a science we have yet to discover. Such things that were considered to be fortean, have since been recognised (ball lightening for example), I find the exploration into the unexplained really intriguing. Just watching the steps to things being recognised or being explained in a scientific basis really fascinates me. Thanks for posting this on tumblr btw!


  2. You’ve hit it on the head, Martin. Atheism is lack of belief in God(s), nothing more, nothing less. And furthermore I would argue that Forteans make for excellent atheists, for we are the ultimate skeptics who accept NOTHING at face value. The problem with the “new atheism” in my opinion is that it is full of ‘Dawkins clones’ who seem to treat The God Delusion as their “Bible”, and woe betide any who commit the heresy of ever questioning that gospel.

    Gotta go now. I have a baby in the oven that needs turned and basted.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. While I do not believe you need to explain your position, I appreciate your words. Narrow minded people like to fit others into narrow boxes. So I understand the confusion. Just like you, I do not believe in any god, yet I have had too many weird or unexplained things happen in my life, not to believe there is more going on that what we can see in the material world. Yes, I agree science some day will be able to explain “supernatural” events, but in order for that to happen, science has to agree what consciousness is and how it works. (I think I just went off topic). Getting back to your point, one does not have to believe in something in order to study it or appreciate it. Like I said, I do not believe in any god, yet I have been studying religion for over 25 years. It fascinates me. I have two huge medieval crosses (minus a dead man) hanging in my living room. My Christian friends know I am an atheist and can appreciate the crosses for what they are to me; medieval artwork.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I must confess that from time to time I have had those questions in my mind but I never asked you out of respect and friendship. This post clarified all of that. For the record, I never thought of you as a baby-eating atheist or God forbid (I say it totally on purpose :-)…) as an atheist+; you are way too smart to be one of those. Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

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