Tim Crane, The Meaning of Belief: Religion from an Atheist’s Point of View (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2017), 20-21.
Atheism and agnosticism are genuinely distinct positions. Neither of them, however, offers any positive substantial doctrines about what the world is like or how we should live. Some people are bothered by this: by the fact that atheism, so described, is a negative position. A significant collection of essays by atheist philosophers is advertised as recommending atheism as a “profoundly fulfilling and moral way of life,” as a contrast to those who think of it as a negative outlook on life. In his short introduction to atheism, Julian Baggini considers the view that atheism is just “parasitic on religion and by its very nature negative” but rightly concludes that this view involves a fallacy, the result of drawing too much out of the etymology of the word “atheism.” He goes on to propose a “positive” version of atheism. But I cannot see the objection to negative views as such; if I am against imprisonment without trial and torture, then my belief is negative in the above sense. It is parasitic on the existence of torture and imprisonment without trial. And even if torture were wiped out, this fact would be “parasitic” on the previous existence of torture. How can this be an objection to my belief?