It’s been a while, so the details may be wrong but the spirit is true.
I briefly became acquanted with a Christian interested in apologetics and outreach.During our discussions, they happened to bring up the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s entry on atheism and agnosticism. Then as now, I thought it was mistaken.
Atheism is both the denial of a god and the lack of belief in a god. A newborn infant cannot decide that the evidence for or against the gods is equivocal, as they have not been introduced to the concept of a “god.” Thus the newborn cannot be agnostic, but as does not believe in a god it cannot be considered a theist either. The consequences of a lack of belief in something are identical to those of an active disbelief; whether I don’t know that stoves are hot or deny that stoves are hot, I’m going to be spending some time in bandages.Thus we are accurate when we describe a newborn infant as as atheist.
This upends a core premise of that SEP article, as it considers agnosticism to be separate from atheism and not a subset of it. I’m also not a fan of its dismissal of polytheistic or non-Middle-Eastern pantheons, but I’m falling off the point.
That acquantance later contacted me to tell me the author of that article was dead, and wondered if I felt better because of that. I informed them I didn’t; as badly mistaken as I thought the author was, as grumpy as I was that they were spreading misinformation, as happy as I was that others would have an easier time countering their misinformation with them out of the picture, their death meant that their beliefs could never be corrected. For their whole life they’d thought they’d done the right thing, and now the world lost the chance to show them otherwise. It made any sense of victory feel hollow.
It was announced Sunday that longtime anti-feminist Phyllis Schlafly has died at her home in St. Louis at 92. The conservative icon has a long history opposing women’s rights, equal pay, abortion and the Equal Rights Amendment.