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The Definitional Thread

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    (Original post by Hylean)
    Not necessarily, because many theists and deists back their beliefs up with what they consider evidence, so to them, it's not blind faith.




    No, that argument was on something different: on whether or not atheism is an active position and then later whether the "I don't know whether god exists or not" can be considered atheists. The fact that so many atheists come on here and ignore positive/strong atheism hasn't. It's even funnier when a quick look through "Does God Exist" and the Atheist Soc show many strong atheists popping in, so it's not like they live in obscurity. So either many atheists don't know their own standpoint or are seeking to hide this fact by pretending it doesn't exist... :beard: Either way, it's not a good thing.
    I can only speak for myself, and possibly other rational atheists, and say that a so-called strong atheist is on the same dangerous ground as a theist. I, personally, don't know any. Agnostic atheism, or weak atheism, is the only sensible position to take with the evidence available.
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    (Original post by Good bloke)
    I can only speak for myself, and possibly other rational atheists, and say that a so-called strong atheist is on the same dangerous ground as a theist. I, personally, don't know any. Agnostic atheism, or weak atheism, is the only sensible position to take with the evidence available.
    :dontknow: On the last point, we can disagree, but I do agree that strong atheists are on the same ground as theists/deists.
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    (Original post by Hylean)
    I really don't get this. Do many atheists not know their own standpoint or are they being deliberately disingenuous?
    Atheists, many of them, do claim "there is definitely no god". They're called strong or positive atheists. It's right there at the start of this thread. Atheism is not just "a lack of belief".
    And faith is not blind. Hence why we call a certain kind of faith "blind faith". The "blind" aspect is not implied by the word "faith". A subtle fact that many atheists on this thread seem to forget. I have faith in a doctor I've just met, for instance.
    Dear Hylean.

    1.

    Saying you are an atheist does NOT mean you think or say there definitely is no god. Atheism, by itself, is merely a lack of belief. Look at any dictionary or academic discussion of the term, and you will find the universally accepted definition is 'lack of belief in god or gods'.

    In *contrast*, 'strong' atheism - by far the minority view - is the naive claim that there is no chance of there being a God. Note the EXTRA WORD (strong)!! None of the atheists I know, ESPECIALLY none of the famous or prominent ones, would claim this position. Dawkins certainly wouldn't. Nor Dennett, or any decent philosopher. Why? Because there is no evidence to 'disprove' Gods existence (if any such evidence is conceivable). Its arrogant and nonsensical.

    I definitely wouldn't say God definitely does or can not exist, YET I am still an atheist. (Please not that this is NOT 'disingenuous'). I do not believe in God. Similarly, I couldn't prove absolutely (returning to my example) that there is no unicorn at the bottom of the atlantic ocean singing Thomas Tallis, but yet I believe there is none.

    Let me reiterate: 'atheism' is simply disbelief. That is the definition of atheism. Its very simple. 'Strong atheism' is different from regular atheism because it asserts the definite and empirical non-existence of God. Any reasonable person cannot rule out the idea of God entirely, even if one thinks that the probability of the existence of the Judeo-Christian God is vanishingly small. For this reason, you can be both agnostic AND atheist.

    2.

    I agree more with what you say about 'faith', since people have a tendency to spit it out as a dirty word.

    There appears, broadly, to be two different uses of the word 'faith'.

    - First, 'faith' meaning 'trust' or 'confidence'. Having faith in your doctor, or government, or police force, or family, for example. This type of faith is not always 'blind' because it can mean 'trust', which is often based upon graspable evidence. We trust doctors because they have proven and effective expertise.

    - Second, and by contrast, there is 'faith' as a thing people have in place of evidence or supportable knowledge. This is what you want to be distinguished as 'blind faith'. Its something we need when we have nothing else to fill the void. If you accept the definition of 'faith' as belief without evidence then, by definition, it is a stab in the dark. It has little or nothing supporting it and is therefore at least partly 'blind'. In this sense, 'faith' can indeed be said to imply 'blindness' because without evidence we are fumbling in the dark, with nothing to illuminate our surroundings. Why would we need faith/belief if things were not at least a little blurry or unknown?

    To sum up:

    1. Most atheists, myself included, are also technically agnostics. This is because belief can be separated from verifiable knowledge. The atheists who assert the 'definite' non-existence of God are a minority, and although probably right, they appear naive and arrogant to most believers and agnostics.

    2. There are different ways in which the word 'faith' is used, and these different meanings have a tendency to blur over each other. I argue your example of the doctor refers to 'faith' as 'trust' rather than as 'belief', which is how I used the word. If 'faith' is taken to mean 'belief without evidence' - religious faith for example - then it necessarily implies at least partial blindness.
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    (Original post by T-o dore)
    Dear Hylean.

    1.

    Saying you are an atheist does NOT mean you think or say there definitely is no god. Atheism, by itself, is merely a lack of belief. Look at any dictionary or academic discussion of the term, and you will find the universally accepted definition is 'lack of belief in god or gods'.
    Wrong. This is only the accepted definition by weak atheists. Dictionaries all place strong atheism as the foremost meaning (denoted by it being meaning no.1) of atheism, and this is still the commonly accepted meaning of atheism by the populace at large.


    (Original post by T-o dore)
    In *contrast*, 'strong' atheism - by far the minority view - is the naive claim that there is no chance of there being a God. Note the EXTRA WORD (strong)!! None of the atheists I know, ESPECIALLY none of the famous or prominent ones, would claim this position. Dawkins certainly wouldn't. Nor Dennett, or any decent philosopher. Why? Because there is no evidence to 'disprove' Gods existence (if any such evidence is conceivable). Its arrogant and nonsensical.
    Really, you're using "note the EXTRA WORD" as evidence for your argument? You might then wish to realise that your form of atheism is "officially" known as "weak" or "negative" atheism.

    If we go down that road, then at its most narrow sense, atheism is purely strong atheism. If we take it at its most literal sense, then atheism actually includes deists. Weak atheism only gets included in a rather broad sense of the word.

    Dawkins calls himself a 6/7 on his scale of atheism, which makes him pretty damn strong and he probably only does that to avoid ridicule for being a 7.

    And really, just because you find it arrogant and nonsensical is no reason to ignore that facet of atheism. Just like theists aren't allowed to forget their extremists or deny them as part of theism, niether can you.


    (Original post by T-o dore)
    I definitely wouldn't say God definitely does or can not exist, YET I am still an atheist. (Please not that this is NOT 'disingenuous'). I do not believe in God. Similarly, I couldn't prove absolutely (returning to my example) that there is no unicorn at the bottom of the atlantic ocean singing Thomas Tallis, but yet I believe there is none.
    Good for you. I never said calling yourself an atheist was disingenuous. I said that ignoring "strong" atheism in favour of "weak" atheism was disingenuous. Or you simply didn't know about it.


    (Original post by T-o dore)
    Let me reiterate: 'atheism' is simply disbelief. That is the definition of atheism. Its very simple. 'Strong atheism' is different from regular atheism because it asserts the definite and empirical non-existence of God. Any reasonable person cannot rule out the idea of God entirely, even if one thinks that the probability of the existence of the Judeo-Christian God is vanishingly small. For this reason, you can be both agnostic AND atheist.
    See, this is where you're being disingenuous, by holding that it "is simply disbelief". That is simply one of the definitions of atheism, and a very broad one which much of the populace doesn't recognise as the dominant one, as of yet. Your attempt to suggest your kind of atheism is "regular atheism" doesn't have much weight to it. You might want to research atheism a bit more.

    You can also be agnostic and theist. Not relevant.


    (Original post by T-o dore)
    2.

    I agree more with what you say about 'faith', since people have a tendency to spit it out as a dirty word.

    There appears, broadly, to be two different uses of the word 'faith'.

    - First, 'faith' meaning 'trust' or 'confidence'. Having faith in your doctor, or government, or police force, or family, for example. This type of faith is not always 'blind' because it can mean 'trust', which is often based upon graspable evidence. We trust doctors because they have proven and effective expertise.
    Hehe, of course, keep away from the dirty word, "faith".


    (Original post by T-o dore)
    - Second, and by contrast, there is 'faith' as a thing people have in place of evidence or supportable knowledge. This is what you want to be distinguished as 'blind faith'. Its something we need when we have nothing else to fill the void. If you accept the definition of 'faith' as belief without evidence then, by definition, it is a stab in the dark. It has little or nothing supporting it and is therefore at least partly 'blind'. In this sense, 'faith' can indeed be said to imply 'blindness' because without evidence we are fumbling in the dark, with nothing to illuminate our surroundings. Why would we need faith/belief if things were not at least a little blurry or unknown?
    Well, firstly, "faith as belief without evidence" is a singularly atheist definition of "faith" and one dictionaries and most ordinary people would reject. I reject that definition as a flawed attempt to distort the playing field.

    Simply put, many theists and deists, in fact the majority of them, have faith in their deities because they have seen or heard what they consider evidence for their existence. So their faith is backed-up by evidence. So, by that, it's still not "blind".


    (Original post by T-o dore)
    To sum up:

    1. Most atheists, myself included, are also technically agnostics. This is because belief can be separated from verifiable knowledge. The atheists who assert the 'definite' non-existence of God are a minority, and although probably right, they appear naive and arrogant to most believers and agnostics.
    Interestingly, unless you have the stats to prove it, I would ask you refrain from stating "most atheists". Anecdotal evidence doesn't count.

    Oh, and technically, you could be a agnostic strong atheist. You can fully believe there is no god, but realise that such a thing is unknowable.



    (Original post by T-o dore)
    2. There are different ways in which the word 'faith' is used, and these different meanings have a tendency to blur over each other. I argue your example of the doctor refers to 'faith' as 'trust' rather than as 'belief', which is how I used the word. If 'faith' is taken to mean 'belief without evidence' - religious faith for example - then it necessarily implies at least partial blindness.
    Of course you would, cause then you could argue that you don't have faith in things, but your definition of faith is only ever used by atheists and ignores the fact most theists and deists believe they have evidence for their faith. It also ignores that most theists, especially Abrahamic theists, would define their faith as a trust in God. I reject your interpretation of faith, as highly biased and not supported by evidence; linguistically, it wouldn't work either, as the majority of people don't use it that way either.
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    (Original post by Hylean)
    Wrong. This is only the accepted definition by weak atheists. Dictionaries all place strong atheism as the foremost meaning (denoted by it being meaning no.1) of atheism, and this is still the commonly accepted meaning of atheism by the populace at large.
    Yet Collins has, for atheist:

    noun
    1.a person who does not believe in God or gods
    Have you looked at any dictionaries lately? :rolleyes:

    Well, firstly, "faith as belief without evidence" is a singularly atheist definition of "faith" and one dictionaries and most ordinary people would reject. I reject that definition as a flawed attempt to distort the playing field.
    Now hold on a minute. First you tell us that the number 1 definition is the only one that matters (when it comes to the definition of atheism), now you tell us that faith defined as belief without evidence is a singularly atheist definition.

    If you read the Collins definition of faith, you'll find the definition you don't like is at number 1:

    noun
    1.strong or unshakeable belief in something, esp without proof or evidence
    2.a specific system of religious beliefs ⇒ the Jewish faith
    3.(Christianity) trust in God and in his actions and promises
    4.a conviction of the truth of certain doctrines of religion, esp when this is not based on reason
    5.complete confidence or trust in a person, remedy, etc
    6.any set of firmly held principles or beliefs
    7.allegiance or loyalty, as to a person or cause (esp in the phrases keep faith, break faith)
    You really should give up this repeated and futile campaign about the meanings you don't like.
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    (Original post by Good bloke)
    Yet Collins has, for atheist:



    Have you looked at any dictionaries lately? :rolleyes:
    From Collins, on atheism:

    "noun

    rejection of belief in God or gods"

    From dictionary.com:

    "1.
    the doctrine or belief that there is no God.
    2.
    disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings."

    And Atheism on Wikipedia:

    "Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities.[1][2] In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities.[3][4][5] Most inclusively, atheism is simply the absence of belief that any deities exist.[4][5][6][7] Atheism is contrasted with theism,[8][9] which in its most general form is the belief that at least one deity exists."



    (Original post by Good bloke)
    Now hold on a minute. First you tell us that the number 1 definition is the only one that matters (when it comes to the definition of atheism), now you tell us that faith defined as belief without evidence is a singularly atheist definition.

    If you read the Collins definition of faith, you'll find the definition you don't like is at number 1:

    You really should give up this repeated and futile campaign about the meanings you don't like.
    Touché, that's a fair point. I'd never seen that one before, but note the "esp." part doesn't always apply and isn't the main part of the definition. It still doesn't apply to theistic or deistic faith, as they believe they have evidence.

    As a side note, the one you highlight as no.1 seems to be lower in other dictionaries, but no, I concede defeat to that point. Well done, sir. I've never heard it used with that specific a meaning except by atheists, however, and as mentioned, they do like dropping the "especially", which changes the meaning somewhat.
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    (Original post by Hylean)
    See, this is where you're being disingenuous, by holding that it "is simply disbelief". That is simply one of the definitions of atheism, and a very broad one which much of the populace doesn't recognise as the dominant one, as of yet. Your attempt to suggest your kind of atheism is "regular atheism" doesn't have much weight to it. You might want to research atheism a bit more.
    I'm pretty sure I'm right about this, Hylean. It doesn't take a lot of research. Atheists may hold beliefs that are unattached to their atheism, but atheism is disbelief.

    Read the first post:

    "Atheism = non-theism; literally, anyone who is not a theist is an atheist."
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    (Original post by T-o dore)
    I'm pretty sure I'm right about this, Hylean. It doesn't take a lot of research. Atheists may hold beliefs that are unattached to their atheism, but atheism is disbelief.

    Read the first post:

    "Atheism = non-theism; literally, anyone who is not a theist is an atheist."
    So, you'd agree then that deists are atheists? They're not theists and theist is not short-hand for anyone who believes in a deity. Using that particular definition leaves you open to some dodgy membership.

    First line on wikipedia's page on atheism:

    "Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities.[1][2] In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities.[3][4][5] Most inclusively, atheism is simply the absence of belief that any deities exist.[4][5][6][7] Atheism is contrasted with theism,[8][9] which in its most general form is the belief that at least one deity exists."
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    Let's not use Wikipedia as an authority.
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    Theism is the belief in some form of deity.
    A-theism is therefore the lack of belief in some form of deity. This is not the same as belief in the lack of some form of deity, which could probably be called an antitheist (however that term has been stolen for people who take issue with theists.)

    I have NO idea why this discussion has gone on!
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    (Original post by T-o dore)
    Dear Hylean.
    Saying you are an atheist does NOT mean you think or say there definitely is no god. Atheism, by itself, is merely a lack of belief. Look at any dictionary or academic discussion of the term, and you will find the universally accepted definition is 'lack of belief in god or gods'.
    The dictionary supports you!

    (Original post by Hylean)
    Wrong. This is only the accepted definition by weak atheists. Dictionaries all place strong atheism as the foremost meaning (denoted by it being meaning no.1) of atheism, and this is still the commonly accepted meaning of atheism by the populace at large.
    :no: Unfortunately I have to say Hylean you are wrong and T-o dore is right there.

    Edit thanks Hypocrism for pos rep, no thanks to Hylean for neg :mad:
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    (Original post by Good bloke)
    Let's not use Wikipedia as an authority.
    Why not? The sentence quoted has references that you can take up. So, it's no worse than any academic source in this instance.


    (Original post by Hypocrism)
    Theism is the belief in some form of deity.
    A-theism is therefore the lack of belief in some form of deity. This is not the same as belief in the lack of some form of deity, which could probably be called an antitheist (however that term has been stolen for people who take issue with theists.)

    I have NO idea why this discussion has gone on!
    At its broadest sense, true.

    However, more narrowly, theism is the belief in a personal deity, whereas deism is a belief in an impersonal deity.

    And if you lot can cherry pick definitions to suit your arguments, so can I. :ahee:


    (Original post by blueray)
    The dictionary supports you!

    :no: Unfortunately I have to say Hylean you are wrong and T-o dore is right there.
    Well, as always, you give wonderful supporting arguments Blueray...

    From dictionary.com:

    1.
    the doctrine or belief that there is no God.

    2.
    disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings.

    So, yea, the dictionary doesn't support T-o dore. You can also see the other dictionaries I've quoted above, which disagree. In fact, every definition of "atheism" includes "strong atheism" and so, the point remains:

    Atheism is not "simply" a lack of belief.
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    (Original post by Hylean)
    Why not? The sentence quoted has references that you can take up. So, it's no worse than any academic source in this instance.
    Because it is an encyclopaedia (and that bit may even have been written by you).


    You can also see the other dictionaries I've quoted above

    Carefully ignoring the highly reputable one I quoted at you earlier in favour of the rather less reputable dictionary.com, eh?
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    (Original post by Good bloke)
    Because it is an encyclopaedia (and that bit may even have been written by you).

    Carefully ignoring the highly reputable one I quoted at you earlier in favour of the rather less reputable dictionary.com, eh?
    Except, I responded with the definition of atheism from Collins, and dictionary.com sources as well. :dontknow: It's hardly less reputable.

    I couldn't be assed doing all that work for Wikipedia. If you want to argue the sentence, then argue the sources. I mean, if you can't, that's okay, but just rejecting a source out of hand isn't very academic.
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    (Original post by Hylean)
    However, more narrowly, theism is the belief in a personal deity, whereas deism is a belief in an impersonal deity.

    And if you lot can cherry pick definitions to suit your arguments, so can I. :ahee:
    Sure, but deism is a subset of theist. So both a deist and a "personal theist" are included in the term "theist" and so excluded by the term "atheist". Hence we may as well define atheist as "A person who does not specifically have a belief in any personal deity or any impersonal deity".

    That means it includes people with no specific belief about god/gods, and people who specifically disbelieve the existence of god/gods.
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    (Original post by Hylean)
    just rejecting a source out of hand isn't very academic.
    A bit like Wikipedia then. I've yet to come across a reputable academic institution that would be impressed with a reference to an encyclopaedia - a secondary source.
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    (Original post by Good bloke)
    A bit like Wikipedia then. I've yet to come across a reputable academic institution that would be impressed with a reference to an encyclopaedia - a secondary source.

    yeah the academic method is to track the source back from wikipedia and make sure it's valid, then use that, often I've found wikipedia has circular references. These are naturally useless. XD
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    Atheism =
    a- [confix]
    -theos
    From ancient Greek. A- as a confix meaning 'without' and theos meaning 'gods', or in this context, belief in gods.

    Thus atheism is 'without belief in gods', or a lack of belief in gods.

    There's a difference to lack belief in, and to believe there is no. If my friend told me he had a really nice jacket he just bought, and that it was at home, as we were walking to his house, I wouldn't have a belief regarding the jacket because I wouldn't have seen it. I would lack the belief that the jacket was nice, but I wouldn't believe that the jacket WASN'T nice. Because I haven't seen it.

    That was not an analogy to explain lack of belief in god, but to explain how you can lack belief in something without believing the opposite.

    Thus, atheism is a lack of belief in gods and not a belief. It's not a religion, and it does not deny the existence of God. That's 'strong' atheism, which you'll find is actually quite rare; most atheists say that they don't deny god, but they find it an unlikely as they do the tooth fairy. The default atheism, as determined by the etymology, is what's referred to as 'weak' atheism, or agnostic atheism. If someone told you they were atheist, the only thing you could certainly derive from that statement would be that they are weak atheists, which shouldn't even be a term; it should just be 'atheism' besides the more radical 'strong atheism'.
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    (Original post by Ashir)
    Atheism =
    a- [confix]
    -theos
    From ancient Greek. A- as a confix meaning 'without' and theos meaning 'gods', or in this context, belief in gods.

    Thus atheism is 'without belief in gods', or a lack of belief in gods.

    There's a difference to lack belief in, and to believe there is no. If my friend told me he had a really nice jacket he just bought, and that it was at home, as we were walking to his house, I wouldn't have a belief regarding the jacket because I wouldn't have seen it. I would lack the belief that the jacket was nice, but I wouldn't believe that the jacket WASN'T nice. Because I haven't seen it.

    That was not an analogy to explain lack of belief in god, but to explain how you can lack belief in something without believing the opposite.

    Thus, atheism is a lack of belief in gods and not a belief. It's not a religion, and it does not deny the existence of God. That's 'strong' atheism, which you'll find is actually quite rare; most atheists say that they don't deny god, but they find it an unlikely as they do the tooth fairy. The default atheism, as determined by the etymology, is what's referred to as 'weak' atheism, or agnostic atheism. If someone told you they were atheist, the only thing you could certainly derive from that statement would be that they are weak atheists, which shouldn't even be a term; it should just be 'atheism' besides the more radical 'strong atheism'.

    Firmly agreed.

    The term is so popularly misused and misunderstood it can be very frustrating (and even damaging).

    I personally like to draw comparisons to other words beginning with 'a-', and argue on the basis of English and semantics: Something asymmetrical is not symmetrical, something amoral is not moral, and something abiotic is not biological. It's exactly the same for atheism, where the 'a-' is simply a replacement for 'not' or 'non'. The basal definition of the word does not imply believing God does not exist, and never did. As you put yourself, it's just a lack of theism.

    I actually dislike the terms weak atheism and strong atheism. It's complicating. To me, you're either a believer or you aren't.
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    (Original post by Dandaman1)
    Firmly agreed.

    The term is so popularly misused and misunderstood it can be very frustrating (and even damaging).

    I personally like to draw comparisons to other words beginning with 'a-', and argue on the basis of English and semantics: Something asymmetrical is not symmetrical, something amoral is not moral, and something abiotic is not biological. It's exactly the same for atheism, where the 'a-' is simply a replacement for 'not' or 'non'. The basal definition of the word does not imply believing God does not exist, and never did. As you put yourself, it's just a lack of theism.

    I actually dislike the terms weak atheism and strong atheism. It's complicating. To me, you're either a believer or you aren't.
    The view many theists hold that atheists believe there is no god is due to the projection of their own flaws onto others. Their own dogmatic ideologies revolving around absolute certainties are often criticised by those outside of them so they feel a need to 'lump' the atheists in that group as well.
    It's like a scenario of 'if I'm going you down, I'm taking you with me', but obviously it fails because.... well, they're wrong.

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