What is atheism? The Online Merriam Webster Dictionary says that Atheism is a: “a disbelief in the existence of deity; b: the doctrine that there is no deity.” The American Atheist website says that, “Atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; it is a lack of belief in gods.” There is not much meat in either definition for the obvious reason that there is not much meat in Atheism. Atheism is like the Down East story of the woman who serves her husband sausages for breakfast for the first time one morning and then asks, “What do you think of them, Marvin.” He labours away at skinning the sausages then eats the skins, and says, “Not bad, Martha, but after you clean ‘em, there’s not much to ‘em.”
All of three of these “definitions” suffer from the same philosophical problem; it is impossible to get rid of the concept of a god, without reference to a god of some sort, and still retain any basis for developing any moral or any philosophical system. In the 1960s Altizer and Hamilton published “Radical Theology and the Death of God,” a bread and butter basic in my seminary. The book followed Friedrich Nietzsche in proclaiming the death of God and the human freedom to determine value and meaning. The problem with the book was that in the end there was no way to get rid of God without bringing in a fundamental idea of god in the back door.
There is an alternative; that is to say there is no meaning, and even the word random must be emptied of any hint of its opposite. Humankind is so desperate for meaning that they make of themselves the god who directs their lives. It’s like having music without rhythm and scales; you end up with cacophony, but you can’t even call it cacophony because you have nothing to compare it with. The moment you impose order to make melody, you have already referenced something greater than yourself that others will also recognize. Saying that there is no meaning is rather like going to the Coffee Shop and ordering a Decaf Coffee with Skim Milk and two Equal, “One Why Bother please.”