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Austin Cline

Nonbeliever vs. Atheist

By October 17, 2010

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Many people are bothered by the label "atheist." Some believe that it communicates incorrect information about them, for example that they think they know for sure that no god(s) can or do exist. Others fear that it carries too much emotional baggage. Thus, many seek out something more neutral and respectable-sounding, even if effectively means the same thing.

Peter Saint-Andre wrote a couple of years ago:

At the age of nine, I stopped believing in the existence of gods, because there seemed to be no evidence for the kind of supernatural power asserted by those around me. I don't see my lack of religious belief as a matter of ideology, which is why I prefer the term "non-believer" to the term "atheist" (one who actively disputes the existence of gods, often in a militant fashion) or "agnostic" (one who doesn't think there is enough evidence one way or another to determine if gods exist).

Saint-Andre is making two (related) errors here. First, he is assuming that every time we see the "-ism" ending on a word we are therefore looking at a label for some ideology, belief system, religion, etc. Second, he is assuming that "atheist" is only defined by the very narrow idea of actively disputing the existence of gods.

It is not true that everything with the -ism suffix is some sort of ideology. Terrorism isn't an ideology, it's a practice or tactic. Heroism isn't an ideology, it's a characteristic or quality. A person with astigmatism is not a person whose ideology consists of not forming any points (though I've encountered people who could in theory be described in such a way).

It's true that the suffix -ism often signals an ideology, but it also can signal some state, attribute, or characteristic that is not reliant upon any particular ideology. This is to be expected because the English -ism derives from the Greek -ismos, which means "the act, state, or theory of."

The term "atheist" doesn't really mean anything different from the term "nonbeliever" (in gods). An atheist is merely someone who lacks belief in gods -- a person who isn't a theist. Atheism is the state of not having any belief in the existence of any gods. Some go on to actively dispute the existence of some or all gods and some may do so militantly, but this isn't a precondition of being an atheist. Some are atheists in a very apathetic way, not believing in any gods and not particularly caring that others do. Atheism isn't an ideology, isn't a belief system, and isn't a religion -- though, like theism, it can be a part of all three.

Of course, if nonbelievers continue to be ashamed of atheism or continue to imagine that it is defined in the manner that evangelical Christians would like to define it, people will remain confused on the matter.

But I'm not sure that Peter Saint-Andre is merely "confused," because of this:

By contrast, we do not attach the "-ism" suffix to the recognition of facts. No one describes themselves as a "heliocentrist" -- they simply recognize the fact that the earth revolves around the sun. To describe one person as a heliocentrist and another as a geocentrist would be to put observable facts and unprovable dogmas on an equal footing, and that's just wrong.

Now that's just absurd. I would certainly describe myself as a "heliocentrist" if I happened to be talking to a "geocentrist" about the organization of the solar system. There are geocentrists so such a situation isn't impossible, but it is unlikely so I don't expect it to happen any time soon. Just because it's unlikely, though, doesn't mean that such a label wouldn't be accurate.

A heliocentrist is anyone who thinks the earth orbits the sun; a geocentrist is anyone who thinks the sun orbits the earth. Use of those labels is, to use Peter Saint-Andre's words, a recognition of observable facts and not an attempt to place them both on equal footing. Using a word ending in "ism" to describe two different states or conditions or two different ideologies does not imply that one regards both as equal in any way. It's just the correct use of language; in contrast, the refusal to use language correctly in order to score debating points is just juvenile.

Comments
August 5, 2010 at 1:11 pm
(1) Brian says:

Actually, you’re wrong. If it annoys you that some people prefer the term non-believer over atheist just say so. There’s no need to justify your personal bias. And your arguments are weak. For example:

You state: “[a]n atheist is merely someone who lacks belief in gods — a person who isn’t a theist.” Etymologically, this is simply incorrect. The term “atheism” comes from the Greek “atheos,” meaning “without god.” Your mistake is your assumption that the “a” in atheist is a grammatical negation of theism (hence, your conclusion that an atheist is merely “a person who isn’t a theist”). Instead, the “a” in atheism is a negation of “theos” (i.e., God). Thus, atheism is a direct negation of “theos” or God. The Oxford English Dictionary gives the following etymological analysis of “atheal” (a related but now obsolete term): “f. Gr. atheos, without God, denying God (f. a, priv. + theos, God).”

My point here is not actually that this etymological analysis reveals the true meaning of the term atheism. There are any number of ways to analyze the meaning of a term (e.g., accepted general use or use within a particular population). Instead, I’m making two other related points. First, your argument is simply weak. Second, since meaning depends on a variety of factors such as context and purpose, there is no need for you to try to justify your own personal bias based on pseudo-logical reasoning. Peter Saint-Andre was obviously trying to make a point when he expressed his preference for the term non-believer. Take it or leave it. If you disagree with the point he’s making, just say so. There is no need to dress up your disagreement in pretentious pseudo-logical rigor.

June 23, 2011 at 12:49 am
(2) Douglas Lamore says:

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Please support the film by sharing this with your friends! And we’re always interested in feedback and advice.

Thatnks for your help!

August 5, 2010 at 1:28 pm
(3) Austin Cline says:

You state: “[a]n atheist is merely someone who lacks belief in gods — a person who isn’t a theist.” Etymologically, this is simply incorrect.

Etymologically, it is correct. The definition I give is the standard definition found in most unabridged dictionaries going back more than a century and it has been used by freethinkers that way going back to the 19th century.

First, your argument is simply weak.

My argument is that “atheism” is simply the absence of belief in gods and, therefore, it doesn’t actually mean anything different from “nonbeliever (in gods)”.That’s as strong of an argument as one can have.

Second, since meaning depends on a variety of factors such as context and purpose, there is no need for you to try to justify your own personal bias based on pseudo-logical reasoning.

You have yet to demonstrate any personal bias on my part. Ergo, this “objection” of yours is worthless.

Peter Saint-Andre was obviously trying to make a point when he expressed his preference for the term non-believer.

And since his “point” was founded on falsehoods, it’s not a valid point.

Take it or leave it. If you disagree with the point he’s making, just say so. There is no need to dress up your disagreement in pretentious pseudo-logical rigor.

I don’t. I explain and defend my disagreement with facts. This contrasts with your disagreement which you try to justify on falsehoods about atheism and armchair psychologizing about alleged “bias” on my part.

August 5, 2010 at 2:36 pm
(4) Brian says:

Sorry, saying again that you are right doesn’t make it so.

I like how you assert that the definition of atheism you provide is “the standard definition found in most unabridged dictionaries going back more than a century” but then fail to cite any sources. Your assertion that this is the case doesn’t make it so.

I don’t think there’s a dictionary more venerable than the unabridged Oxford English Dictionary, which defines atheism as “Disbelief in, OR DENIAL OF, the existence of a God.” (all caps added for emphasis). Merriam-Webster concurs, defining atheism as “a: a disbelief in the existence of deity, b: THE DOCTRINE THAT THERE IS NO DEITY.” (all caps added for emphasis).

But lets go back even further. As explained in my last comment, the term atheism is Greek in origin. The standard Greek-English Lexicon for classical Greek is Liddell & Scott, which defines the Greek term “atheos,” as “without God, denying the Gods.” As the modern definitions above demonstrate, this meaning of the term has survived to the present time.

Whether you like it or not, this is a connotation that the term “atheism” has and always has had. The fact that the term contains this ambiguity in connotation is sufficient to support Peter Saint-Andre’s point, your quarrelsome objections notwithstanding.

I also like this part: “My argument is that “atheism” is simply the absence of belief in gods and, therefore, it doesn’t actually mean anything different from “nonbeliever (in gods)”.That’s as strong of an argument as one can have.” Is this a joke? Restating your “argument” and then asserting that it is “as strong of an argument as one can have” is ridiculous and about as weak an argument as one can have. Again, just because you asserted it, doesn’t make it so.

Finally, there’s this part: “You have yet to demonstrate any personal bias on my part. Ergo, this “objection” of yours is worthless.” I’ll let other readers be the judge of your personal bias. I would like to point out, however, a flaw in your reasoning. Whether I demonstrate your personal bias or not is logically independent from whether my objection is worthless. Lets assume that I did not demonstrate your personal bias. Lets also assume (for the sake of argument since I’m leaving the final determination up to other readers) that you are in fact biased. The sufficiency (or lack of sufficiency) of my demonstration is logically independent from whether you are, in fact, personally biased or not. In other words, your pseudo-logical use of the term “ergo” is logically mistaken.

August 5, 2010 at 4:02 pm
(5) Austin Cline says:

I like how you assert that the definition of atheism you provide is “the standard definition found in most unabridged dictionaries going back more than a century” but then fail to cite any sources.

I assumed that you would do a little research on your own to learn about the subject before making claims about it. I guess I was wrong.

In point of fact, I have extensive resources here on the definition of atheism. The broad, simple definition of atheism is simply the absence of belief in gods. Normally called “weak atheism,” this definition is attested to in most comprehensive, unabridged dictionaries, and specialized references. It was used by early freethinkers and continues to be used by most contemporary atheist writers.

I don’t think there’s a dictionary more venerable than the unabridged Oxford English Dictionary, which defines atheism as “Disbelief in, OR DENIAL OF, the existence of a God.”

I’ll bet you didn’t look up “disbelief,” the first and primary definition.

But lets go back even further. As explained in my last comment, the term atheism is Greek in origin. The standard Greek-English Lexicon for classical Greek is Liddell & Scott, which defines the Greek term “atheos,” as “without God, denying the Gods.”

Yeah, without god or denying gods. Being without gods is the broad definition which applies to all atheists; denying some or all gods is a narrower definition which applies to some atheists. The broad definition is consistently found in unabridged dictionaries and consistently used by atheists. Some atheists go on to deny some or all gods, but not all.

Unqualified, the term “atheist” has to be read in a broad manner that covers all atheists – just as would be the case if using “theist” in an unqualified manner. You can qualify either to refer to only subsets of the groups because there is sufficient variety of both, but unqualified they are very broad.

Whether you like it or not, this is a connotation that the term “atheism” has and always has had.

Right, being without god or gods.

Restating your “argument” and then asserting that it is “as strong of an argument as one can have” is ridiculous and about as weak an argument as one can have.

That you think a correct and accurate definition is “weak” and “ridiculous” says a lot. Restating my argument is more than sufficient when your idea of a “counter” argument is to incorrectly define atheism

Finally, there’s this part: “You have yet to demonstrate any personal bias on my part. Ergo, this “objection” of yours is worthless.” I’ll let other readers be the judge of your personal bias.

Since you can’t and won’t support your accusation about personal bias on my part, “leaving it to others” is of course the best you can manage. What’s important here is that you feel comfortable making accusations that you can’t or won’t support then forming arguments based on them. This, too, undermines the credibility of your objections.

I would like to point out, however, a flaw in your reasoning. Whether I demonstrate your personal bias or not is logically independent from whether my objection is worthless.

No, since your objection is founded on your accusation of personal bias, your inability to demonstrate it undermines your objection. Indeed, the idea that I am biased here was so important to you that you felt the need to repeat it twice – once at the beginning and once at the end.

August 5, 2010 at 4:49 pm
(6) Brian says:

You accuse me of not doing my own homework, but I’ve cited independent and credible sources in each of my previous posts. You might not agree with my criticisms, but making obviously false accusations is intellectually dishonest.

You are correct, as I pointed out in my first post, that the term atheism has multiple meanings, some broad and some more narrow. Peter Saint-Andre correctly identifies one very common meaning (a meaning, I’ve shown, that has been with the term atheism from its roots and continues today) and distances himself from this particular connotation by expressing his preference for the term nonbeliever. This is perfectly legitimate and does not rest on any “falsehoods,” as you erroneously suggest.

Next, lets learn how to read the dictionary. As noted above, the definition of atheism in the OED is: “Disbelief in, or denial of, the existence of a God.” You state that the “disbelief” part of this definition is the primary part. But this is not how dictionaries differentiate between primary and secondary definitions. Both the “disbelief” and “denial” parts are contained in the same entry with no noted subdivisions. They are co-equal parts as far as the OED definition is concerned.

The OED defines belief as: “[t]he action or an act of disbelieving; MENTAL REJECTION of a statement or assertion; POSITIVE UNBELIEF.” (all caps added for emphasis. So this doesn’t really get you anywhere either.

August 5, 2010 at 5:40 pm
(7) Austin Cline says:

You accuse me of not doing my own homework, but I’ve cited independent and credible sources in each of my previous posts.

None of which actually support your claims because all demonstrate that atheism is defined first and foremost in a broad manner. Since Peter Saint-Andre’s argument depends on atheism being defined only in a narrow manner (not to mention being incorrectly defined as an ideology), your citations demonstrate that his argument was wrong. Your citations demonstrate that “nonbeliever” is no different from the broad definition of “atheist” — a definition that is listed first in every unabridged dictionary.

You might not agree with my criticisms, but making obviously false accusations is intellectually dishonest.

Says the person who accuses of me personal bias multiple times then, when challenged on that, refuses to either support or retract the claim.

You are correct, as I pointed out in my first post, that the term atheism has multiple meanings, some broad and some more narrow.

And only the broad one covers all atheists; the narrow one he uses only applies to a sub-set of atheists. Thus it is illegitiamte to object to the label “atheism” merely because it can be applied to a group that one woudln’t be a part of.

That’s like saying “I don’t want to be called a theist because some theists believe in just one god and I believe in several.” That’s an incorrect use of the label “theist” and would be an illegitimate reason for saying “I’m not a theist, I”m just a believer.”

You’ll notice — or maybe you didn’t, but you should have — that I myself stated above that some atheists do go on to deny gods and some may even do this “militantly,” but the point is that this isn’t a requirement of atheism. So long as some behavior or attitude is not required for the “atheist” label to apply, it’s incorrect to object to that label simply because that behavior or attitude can be found among some others who also have that label.

Next, lets learn how to read the dictionary. As noted above, the definition of atheism in the OED is: “Disbelief in, or denial of, the existence of a God.” You state that the “disbelief” part of this definition is the primary part. But this is not how dictionaries differentiate between primary and secondary definitions. Both the “disbelief” and “denial” parts are contained in the same entry with no noted subdivisions. They are co-equal parts as far as the OED definition is concerned.

Except that every dictionary that lists both, lists disbelief first and denial second. It’s not a random listing of co-equal definitions. It’s not even an alphabetical listing of co-equal definitions. They are consistently listed in that order for a reason: disbelief is the broad definition that applies most widely and denial only applies to some.

The OED defines belief as: “[t]he action or an act of disbelieving; MENTAL REJECTION of a statement or assertion; POSITIVE UNBELIEF.” (all caps added for emphasis. So this doesn’t really get you anywhere either.

You should have looked up disbelieve. Or you should have followed the links I gave you because they would have taken you to that definition: “Not to believe or credit; to refuse credence to.”

The primary definition of disbelief is simply not believing. Secondarily it can be passive or active rejection of belief in some claim. All are, of course, distinct from denial and listed before denial in every definition of atheism.

August 5, 2010 at 10:34 pm
(8) Brian says:

Fine, you don’t think that my citations support my argument. Just say so. That’s no reason to make a false and sarcastic remark that: “I assumed that you would do a little research on your own to learn about the subject before making claims about it. I guess I was wrong.” This type of remark is precisely why I think you are personally biased. To my ears, you write with a distinct chip on your shoulder. This is how your tone comes off to me and your sarcasm is an example of this. At least I’m straightforward in my criticism regarding your personal bias. I don’t need to resort to subterfuge and sarcasm. I think that it is totally appropriate to state my belief and to leave other’s beliefs up to their own personal judgment.

As to the substance of our argument, we’ll have to agree to disagree. I disagree with you, but I’ve said my peace and again believe that it is appropriate at this point to leave the matter up to other readers to judge for themselves.

August 6, 2010 at 8:58 am
(9) Austin Cline says:

Fine, you don’t think that my citations support my argument. Just say so.

I did.

That’s no reason to make a false and sarcastic remark that: “I assumed that you would do a little research on your own to learn about the subject before making claims about it. I guess I was wrong.”

It wasn’t false because you clearly didn’t do any research on the matter.

This type of remark is precisely why I think you are personally biased.

So it’s a sign of “bias” not make public mention when you fail to do research?

At least I’m straightforward in my criticism regarding your personal bias.

Once again you demonstrate that the idea that I have a “personal bias” is incredibly important to your position — you’ve mentioned that more than anything else. Yet, you patently refuse to provide any evidence of it. You “defer to others” or, at most, suggest that my “sarcasm” is somehow “evidence” of bias.

And I suppose you expect others to believe that sarcasm is a universally acknowledge sign of “bias.”

As to the substance of our argument, we’ll have to agree to disagree.

I guess so. I’ll agree with standard reference works and you’ll disagree with them.

August 7, 2010 at 9:49 am
(10) Mickey D says:

the only label i put on myself is “me”, because i find it weird that people give a name to something that they don’t do

although it’s even worse that this not doing something can be so threatening to a believer

August 18, 2010 at 9:47 am
(11) Pete W says:

You may call it waterfowl. But if it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.

Standardized definitions are there for a reason.

August 25, 2010 at 4:02 pm
(12) Ariel says:

Cat fight!! Cat fight!! Cat fight!! I am an ATHEIST. Don’t care if it is BOTH grammatically and etymologically incorrect when I put it that way. You two argue semantics–all sound and fury signifying very little. But I guess that’s how you get your fun! We are all of different opinions, even in relation to our atheism. Too bad Bri decided to attack instead of give his own opinion.

October 14, 2010 at 7:25 pm
(13) Birdieupon says:

It is complete nonsense to describe atheism as “lack of belief in God”. By this definition babies, cats, dogs – even this laptop I’m typing on – all count as atheists! It’s amusing to think that, given toilet paper lacks belief in God, we wipe ourselves with atheists every day!

This demonstrates a further problem with your definition. When we speak of “lacking belief in God” we’re no longer even discussing the issue of God’s existence! We’ve changed the subject from questioning which proposition is true:

“God exists”
“God does not exist”

…to merely giving a report on an entity’s psychological state:

“I lack belief in God”
“my cat lacks belief in God” etc.

This, of course, tells us nothing about whether or not God exists! We may as well talk about a person’s hair colour, blood type or marital status. The following claims cannot be both true:

“God exists”
“God does not exist”

But the following claims can:

“God exists”
“Bob lacks belief in God”

Let’s take this even further. If atheism is to mean “a-theism” (rather than athe-ism) for lacking belief in the claim:

“God exists”

Then we can also conceive of a person who lacks belief in THIS claim:

“God does not exist”

Again, babies, cats, dogs, tables and chairs lack belief in (G) but they also lack belief in (not-G). The same, of course, applies to agnostics who affirm neither proposition; and verificationists who think the question of God is so meaningless it cannot even be true or false. If we are to talk about “lack of belief” then these entities are “a-theists” but they are also “a-atheists”!

Lastly, if you were to ask me which country I lived in and I replied, “I do not live in Canada” this would be useless! You’d still be asking where I DO live. The same applies to this “a-theism”: it’s evasive and cowardly. We are still left asking “so, are you agnostic? Do you have no belief on the matter? Do you claim there is NO God? …..and is there a God, or not?”

That’s why this definition is ridiculous. It’s a broad umbrella term for disingenuous atheists (or wannabe atheists) to shelter under. Man up and admit you’re either agnostic or that you hold a belief.

Regards,

Non-Canadian, non-atheist ;-)

October 14, 2010 at 8:16 pm
(14) Austin Cline says:

It is complete nonsense to describe atheism as “lack of belief in God”. By this definition babies, cats, dogs – even this laptop I’m typing on – all count as atheists!

In a sense, they are — it’s just not relevant to mention that because they lack any beliefs whatsoever. The category “belief” isn’t used with them and the definition “lack of belief in God” is used under the presumption that the reader can comprehend the relevant context.

This demonstrates a further problem with your definition. When we speak of “lacking belief in God” we’re no longer even discussing the issue of God’s existence!

The same is true with the definition of theism: belief in some sort of god.

We’ve changed the subject from questioning which proposition is true …to merely giving a report on an entity’s psychological state:

That’s exactly what theism and atheism describe: what a person does or does not belief. No more, no less.

This, of course, tells us nothing about whether or not God exists!

True. I notice you don’t explain how this is a “problem” with the definition.

Let’s take this even further. If atheism is to mean “a-theism” (rather than athe-ism) for lacking belief in the claim: “God exists” Then we can also conceive of a person who lacks belief in THIS claim: “God does not exist”

Of course we can conceive of that. For any given proposition, there are people who lack the belief that it is true. Sometimes there is a label for such people; sometimes there is not. I notice you don’t explain how this is a “problem.”

Lastly, if you were to ask me which country I lived in and I replied, “I do not live in Canada” this would be useless!

That depends on whether I care if you live in Canada or not. If I do, then that answer would matter a great deal

You’d still be asking where I DO live. The same applies to this “a-theism”: it’s evasive and cowardly.

No, it doesn’t, because the label “atheism” isn’t an answer to the question “what do you believe in,” thus invalidating your analogy. The label “atheism” is simply an answer to the question “do you believe in any gods”?

That’s why this definition is ridiculous. It’s a broad umbrella term for disingenuous atheists (or wannabe atheists) to shelter under.

No more so than “theism” is a broad umbrella term.

Man up and admit you’re either agnostic or that you hold a belief.

Yes, I am an agnostic. Agnosticism and atheism aren’t mutually exclusive.

And yes, I do have beliefs as well — lots of beliefs. None of those are beliefs in the existence of any gods, however, and that’s why I am an atheist.

Theists are people who believe in the existence of at least one god of some sort; atheists are those who lack any such beliefs.

February 27, 2011 at 10:01 pm
(15) fmfalcao says:

To Birdieupon:

In your response to the “Cat fight”, you stated ” it is complete nonsense to describe atheism as “lack of belief in God”. By this definition babies, cats, dogs – even this laptop I’m typing on – all count as atheists!

I believe it would be safe to say that babies, cats and laptops do not have the capacity to believe in anything – much less disbelieve in anything. I believe your comment is a little out of whack.

Cheers

October 15, 2010 at 2:27 pm
(16) Birdieupon says:

PART 1

“The category “belief” isn’t used with them and the definition “lack of belief in God” is used under the presumption that the reader can comprehend the relevant context.”

I agree, entities like dogs, tables etc hold no beliefs. However, what you need to realize is that the very definition “lack of belief in God” applies to such beings nonetheless, and it is a good way of showing how such a definition trivializes itself. It becomes a definition of psychological profiling, rather than a question about truth, which brings me to my next point:

“The same is true with the definition of theism: belief in some sort of god…. That’s exactly what theism and atheism describe: what a person does or does not belief. No more, no less.”

This is where you are wrong, twice. Theism does not refer merely to a person’s psychology. It is a proposition, which is true or false independently of people’s belief, namely, the proposition that:

“God exists”.

When it comes to belief, people can believe in this proposition, which is what makes them the-ists! To believe is to hold a proposition as being true. Even if nobody on the planet were theist, the proposition “God exists” would nonetheless be objectively true or false. That is theism.

And atheism is the negation to theism, namely, the proposition:

“God does not exist”.

The greek prefix “a-” negates the object it preceeds. This is “a-theos” which means “no Gods”. Your treatment of the word as “a-theism” is a spin placed upon it by Anthony Flew in 1984. He admitted this was an “unusual way” of using the word and that, in doing so, it jumped the etymology of the greeks for its own convenience.

Atheism, therefore, is a negating proposition, and an “athe-ist” is a person who believes that this particular proposition is true.

cont’d…

October 15, 2010 at 2:29 pm
(17) birdieupon says:

PART 2

On your definition (and Flew’s), however, you cut out the proposition and reduce atheism to “a-theism” which results in this trivial psychological profiling. Again, I refer you to my examples (which you did not address):

1. God exists (theism)
2. Bob lacks belief in theism.

No contradiction. (1) is a proposition, (2) is merely a report about an individual. The two can exist side by side. Thus, the “a-theist” becomes irrelevant.

But, the proper way:

1. God exists (theism)
2. God does not exist (atheism)

Means that we are dealing with two contradictory propositions. Reality cannot be both. There is either a God or there is not.

“I notice you don’t explain how this is a “problem.”

It’s not so much a problem, but just downright pointless! If you lack belief in Atheism’s “there is no God” then you could be undecided, verificationist, Christian, Muslim… or the cat! It’s a complete waste of time.

“That depends on whether I care if you live in Canada or not. If I do, then that answer would matter a great deal”

Given that the question was “where do you live” of course it’s useless! It requires a specific answer and the response is evasive, like those of politicians under the grill.

“label “atheism” isn’t an answer to the question “what do you believe in,” thus invalidating your analogy. The label “atheism” is simply an answer to the question “do you believe in any gods”?”

The question is “does God exist”? An “a-theist” will divert the subject to their personal biography, that they lack belief in God. The reason why this is evasive, is that such a lack of belief covers BOTH “I have no view on the matter” and the atheistic claim of “no”. The whole point of my argument is that asking the question “do you believe in God?” is precisely what is irrelevant, as that is where “a-theism” distracts us to. It carries no weight at all.

cont’d…

October 15, 2010 at 2:30 pm
(18) birdieupon says:

PART 3

“No more so than “theism” is a broad umbrella term.”

Completely wrong. I have already explained that theism means:

“God exists”

“A-theism”, on the other hand, covers multiple propositions and non-views. And you prove this point yourself, to your detriment:

“Agnosticism and atheism aren’t mutually exclusive.”

Well, of course, if it’s “a-theism” then agnostic (who neither believes nor disbelieves in God) would count as a non-theist. That’s what makes this psychological profiling so broad and pointless. It’s a tautology. To say “I’m an agnostic who lacks belief in God” is no better than saying “this is a circle which lacks corners”.

“I do have beliefs as well — lots of beliefs. None of those are beliefs in the existence of any gods, however, and that’s why I am an atheist.”

Nope, not atheist. Agnostic. If you haven’t encountered enough data, or gained enough knowledge, to tip the scales of your propositional options into belief, then you are simply without a view. Add the “a-theism” tautology if you want, but you may as well expand it all the way and call yourself an “agnostic non-theist non-atheist” – if that is, indeed, what you are. Many “a-theists” are actually secret “athe-ists” who hide under this umbrella to avoid justifying their position.

“Theists are people who believe in the existence of at least one god of some sort; atheists are those who lack any such beliefs.”

And, as I’ve already demonstrated, you are wrong on both counts. Why be so eager to trivialize your position other than out of sheer intellectual laziness?

October 15, 2010 at 8:34 pm
(19) Austin Cline says:

I agree, entities like dogs, tables etc hold no beliefs. However, what you need to realize is that the very definition “lack of belief in God” applies to such beings nonetheless, and it is a good way of showing how such a definition trivializes itself.

So a definition, taken out of proper context, looks odd. And how does that show that the definition is wrong rather than the person who took it out of context?

This is where you are wrong, twice. Theism does not refer merely to a person’s psychology. It is a proposition, which is true or false independently of people’s belief, namely, the proposition that:

“God exists”.

That would mean that people who believe in Zeus aren’t theists, which is nonsense. Theism isn’t defined as you are trying to claim.

When it comes to belief, people can believe in this proposition, which is what makes them the-ists!

Right, theism is a belief that some proposition is true, not the proposition itself. Do you always contradict yourself so?

The greek prefix “a-” negates the object it preceeds.

No, that isn’t what the prefix means. “A” is lack, privation, absence.

Again, I refer you to my examples (which you did not address):

1. God exists (theism)
2. Bob lacks belief in theism.

Because “theism” is a belief, not a proposition, ergo “lacks belief in theism” is nonsensical. It’s not a proper English sentence any more than “lacks belief in blue” is correct.

Given that the question was “where do you live” of course it’s useless!

And the analogous question “what do you believe in” would not be answered with “atheism”. Thus your analogy fails.

The question is “does God exist”?

The answer is “what god, exactly?”

To the question “do you believe in any gods” the answer is “no, I’m an atheist.”

“No more so than “theism” is a broad umbrella term.”

Completely wrong. I have already explained that theism means:

“God exists”

Only in your narrow world. That idiosyncratic definition can’t be found anywhere but your mind and so there is no reason for anyone else to use it – much less redefine “atheism” to accommodate it.

Well, of course, if it’s “a-theism” then agnostic (who neither believes nor disbelieves in God) would count as a non-theist.

No, some agnostics are theists. Agnosticism is about knowledge and is thus compatible with both believing and not believing.

Nope, not atheist. Agnostic.

Nope, both. Agnosticism isn’t an absence of belief in gods – not according to any dictionary or reference work. You’re making up your own definition here as you did with “theism.”

“Theists are people who believe in the existence of at least one god of some sort; atheists are those who lack any such beliefs.”

And, as I’ve already demonstrated, you are wrong on both counts.

You’ve “demonstrated” that definitions used by no one but you are not consistent with what I wrote. That doesn’t make me wrong. It just means I use the normal dictionaries rather than consult you on how to use words. This allows me to be understood by everyone else.

Why be so eager to trivialize your position other than out of sheer intellectual laziness?

I’m the only one here who is accurately describing my position; you’re trying to attribute to me things I don’t hold by redefining words for no apparent reason whatsoever. I recommend buying a couple of dictionaries.

October 15, 2010 at 3:13 pm
(20) birdieupon says:

Additionally, “disbelieves” means to believe the negation of, or to deny a proposition being true. This is not mere lack of belief. Things which are dis-proven have not simply failed to be proven, but are proven false. Something which dis-appears does not simply fail to appear, but goes from a state of appearance into vanishing. It’s a complete turn-around, not a lack, so appealing to “disbelieve” as if this somehow gets you off the hook actually destroys your position.

Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

Atheist: A person who maintains that “there is no God”. That is to say the statement “God exists” expresses a false propositon.

October 15, 2010 at 8:27 pm
(21) Austin Cline says:

Additionally, “disbelieves” means to believe the negation of, or to deny a proposition being true.

No, it doesn’t.

Atheist: A person who maintains that “there is no God”. That is to say the statement “God exists” expresses a false propositon.

Ever hear of the concept “jargon”? In philosophy, “atheist” has a narrower definition. So does “theist.”

October 16, 2010 at 5:26 am
(22) birdieupon says:

PART 1

“No, it doesn’t.”

Dude, simply saying “no it doesn’t”, when I have already supported the meaning of “disbelieve” with etymological examples, and linking me to your OWN blog page, is hardly an argument.

“That would mean that people who believe in Zeus aren’t theists”

Does it really need spelling out for you that Zeus is a God, and a believer in Zeus would be affirming the theistic proposition “God exists” or “there is a God”? If it is objectively true that Zeus exists, them theism is true (that is to say, Atheism is false: it is not true that there are no Gods)!

“theism is a belief that some proposition is true, not the proposition itself.”

This is not a contradiction. You’re scraping the barrel here. A theist believes in theism, theism is a proposition. We can speak of theism being true or false, and allow for persons to assent to this proposition, which requires evidence and justification. The exact same applies to atheism: it is a proposition, and people can choose to commit themselves to the proposition.

“the prefix means. “A” is lack, privation, absence.”

As a negation it includes those things to, and it applies to theos, which is GODS, the object, not belief in Gods.

““lacks belief in theism” is nonsensical.”

What? That’s your very definition of atheism: “a-theism”, “non-theist”, lacking theism, lacking belief in the proposition “God exists”. Are you seriously an educated person?

October 16, 2010 at 11:23 am
(23) Austin Cline says:

“No, it doesn’t.”

Dude, simply saying “no it doesn’t”, when I have already supported the meaning of “disbelieve” with etymological examples, and linking me to your OWN blog page, is hardly an argument.

I don’t link you to a “blog page,” I link you to citations of numerous dictionaries. So what you’re saying is that you don’t accept dictionaries as authoritative sources on how English is used — or at least not when someone uses them to contradict you.

“That would mean that people who believe in Zeus aren’t theists”

Does it really need spelling out for you that Zeus is a God

Does it need spelling out for you that you’re using English incorrectly again?

Zeus is a god. The phrase “God exists” differs from the phrase “a god exists.” The latter can refer to Zeus; the former does not.

“theism is a belief that some proposition is true, not the proposition itself.”

This is not a contradiction.

A proposition and the belief that that proposition is true are not the same. It’s not a contradiction, it’s just different things.

A theist believes in theism, theism is a proposition.

No, theism is the belief that the proposition is true. That’s basic English. You’d know this if you used a dictionary.

“the prefix means. “A” is lack, privation, absence.”

As a negation it includes those things to, and it applies to theos, which is GODS, the object, not belief in Gods.

Except that privation and absence of are not negations. Again, basic English.

“”lacks belief in theism” is nonsensical.”

What? That’s your very definition of atheism:

No, the definition of atheism is the absence of theism, not the absence of belief in theism.

Are you seriously an educated person?

Educated enough to comprehend basic English and know how to use a dictionary.

October 16, 2010 at 5:57 am
(24) birdieupon says:

“The answer is “what god, exactly?””

Nope, that is irrelevant. No matter which God a person believes in, it still involves affirming the proposition “God exists” or “There is a God”.

No matter whether Christianity is true, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Greek Gods, etc, these would all mean that the proposition “God exists” is true, and that Atheism “there is no God” is false.

“Agnosticism is about knowledge and is thus compatible with both believing and not believing.”

This is desperate. In order to form a belief, you need some degree of knowledge, otherwise your beliefs would be completely arbitrary. And again it is an exercise in tautology:

A) Let’s treat agnosticism as “I cannot know” meaning 100% undoubtable knowledge of a proposition. So what? The very nature of belief is that you still affirm a proposition, even though you do not have complete knowledge (the reasons for out-balance reasons against, even though you’ve not certain).

So, an “agnostic theist” is simply theist! You’ve done it again.

B) Let’s take agnostic to mean “I have zero knowledge – nothing to inform my thoughts about God”. Of course you are going to lack belief in Theism, but you are also going to lack belief in Atheism! Again, you’ve made a tautology. This person is simply an agnostic!

Whether a person believes or knows is also irrelevant. In both cases, they affirm a proposition.

If you can’t tell the difference between a proposition and the belief in the proposition which people can also assent to, then I doubt you’ve even read a dictionary.

October 16, 2010 at 11:18 am
(25) Austin Cline says:

“The answer is “what god, exactly?”"

Nope, that is irrelevant.

It is the most relevant question because unless I know what a person means by “god” I can’t answer the question.

No matter whether Christianity is true, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Greek Gods, etc, these would all mean that the proposition “God exists” is true, and that Atheism “there is no God” is false.

When you use “God,” you are speaking of the single deity of monotheistic western religion. Ergo, if the Greek pantheon exists then the phrase “God exists” is false because that’s typically referencing another deity entirely.

“Agnosticism is about knowledge and is thus compatible with both believing and not believing.”

This is desperate.

No, it’s basic English.

In order to form a belief, you need some degree of knowledge, otherwise your beliefs would be completely arbitrary.

True, but you don’t need to know for certain that a proposition is true in order to believe that it is true.

A) Let’s treat agnosticism as “I cannot know” meaning 100% undoubtable knowledge of a proposition. So what? The very nature of belief is that you still affirm a proposition, even though you do not have complete knowledge (the reasons for out-balance reasons against, even though you’ve not certain).

So, an “agnostic theist” is simply theist! You’ve done it again.

Yes, an agnostic theist is a theist but the agnosticism is relevant because some theists claim to know for sure that their god exists and, therefore, are not agnostic.

B) Let’s take agnostic to mean “I have zero knowledge – nothing to inform my thoughts about God”. Of course you are going to lack belief in Theism,

Except that “belief in Theism” isn’t proper English. Indeed, you’ve made bad English even worse because theism isn’t a proper noun.

If you can’t tell the difference between a proposition and the belief in the proposition which people can also assent to, then I doubt you’ve even read a dictionary.

But I can tell the difference — that’s why I’m able to recognize that theism is belief in a proposition rather than the proposition itself.

So when are you going to buy that dictionary and look up terms like “theism” and the prefix “a”? Or maybe you could just follow the link I gave earlier because it takes you to citations from numerous dictionaries over the past hundred years. Then again, maybe facing facts that contradict your beliefs is a problem for you?

October 22, 2010 at 5:52 pm
(26) Kumera says:

The problem here is that there are two distinct meanings, non-believer in God or gods, and believer in no gods, but there are not two distinct words. So the one word that is available divides people into two camps, those who use it with one meaning, and those who use it with the other. The real meanings of words are the meanings that people ascribe to them. (An example is the way that the meaning of “gay” changed a few decades ago. Dictionaries did not change the meaning; people using the word did.)
Because people use the word atheist in two different ways, it is sometimes necessary to clarify which meaning you have in mind when you use it, especially if someone wants to know what you do believe. I also do not live in Canada, but that does not make me an American.

December 9, 2010 at 10:00 pm
(27) Lee Walsh says:

Hello
I don’t feel much like an atheist and I don’t really like ‘non-believer’ because there is nothing to believe in.
It’s not that I have found something to say “that doesn’t exist” about. That sounds like there was something there and then I thought there wasn’t.
I accept that people like and dislike various terms and that they mean different things to different people.
I wish there was a word that explained what I believe without having to add to it.
Most of the time I will use either of the terms I mentioned at the start but that’s because I’ve got nothing better.
Thanks

Lee

December 13, 2010 at 10:45 am
(28) Patricia says:

I am a non-believer. I didn’t read all the comments, but in principle I agree with Peter Saint-Andre.
I have no idea what beliveing is. I am unable to feel it (or think it, or rationalize it).
I can’t say I’m an atheist. For the simple reason that it’s not just God (or gods) I don’t recognize as real, but also angels, saints, demons, devils, ghosts, spirits, fairies, hell, heaven, elves, witches, santa claus and so on).
I can’t think of any other label than “non-believer” to describe that.

February 9, 2011 at 3:36 am
(29) Another non-believer says:

Part I

I agree with you (Austin).

Atheist and non-believer MEAN the same thing: someone who does not believe in god(s). Peter Saint-Andre was indeed wrong to state that to be atheist one has to “actively dispute the existence of gods,” one does not have to. I appreciate your efforts to educate people about the real meanings of words like atheist, non-believer, and agnostic.

HOWEVER, as Peter Saint-Andre and many of the readers who posted comments make it clear, the USE of the word atheist is often different from its actual meaning. That is, for whatever reason (most likely, a deliberate attempt to discredit atheists), the term atheism tends to associated with strong beliefs in the inexistence of god(s) and especially with atheists who are hostile to religion and religious people. Furthermore, I believe a lot of people make other (incorrect) associations when they hear someone describe him- or herself as an atheist. For example, they may assume that that person must necessarily be less moral than any person who label him- or herself as believer. As an atheist/non-believer, I know this assumption couldn’t be further from the truth but this doesn’t change the fact that a lot of people believe that morality comes from religion and doubt that a person without religion can be moral (e.g., discriminate what’s right from what’s wrong).

February 9, 2011 at 3:37 am
(30) Another non-believer says:

PART II

My point? The arguments used by Peter Saint-Andre to prefer the term non-believer to the term atheist may have been flawed (indeed, they were). However, choosing to label oneself as atheist or non-believer is not inconsequential. The label atheist does have strong negative reactions on (many) people, as you can clearly see by the responses to your article.

Personally, I consider myself an atheist. However, I generally avoid labeling myself that way when surrounded by people who don’t know me well. Why? Because the prejudice against atheists is so strong that I find it difficult to be treated fairly by people who don’t know me well if the first thing they know about me is that I do not believe in God. For example, they are less likely to trust me (even if I am much more trustable than most of their religious friends) and they attribute anything they don’t like about me to my lack of faith. This, I believe, is extremely unfair, and you may think that the best way to start addressing it may be for me to be more open with people about my (lack of) faith in order to educate them. But, at this point in time, competing with religion (in the U.S.) seems just hopeless.

So, when given a choice between labeling myself as an atheist or a non-believer, I definitely choose to label myself as a non-believer (or to dodge the labeling requirement). Not because I think there is a denotative difference in the meaning of the two words, but because the term non-believer does not elicit such negative connotations among believers and even prejudiced people may take the time to get to know you like a human being. And why would I want to get to know such prejudiced people? Well, that’s another story… but, if nothing else, I think it is another way to educate people. By the time they learn that I am an atheist, it is difficult to justify in their heads that I am immoral and not to be trusted… helping to debunk the myth that “all atheists are immoral and cannot be trusted.”

February 9, 2011 at 5:44 am
(31) Austin Cline says:

I generally avoid labeling myself that way when surrounded by people who don’t know me well. Why? Because the prejudice against atheists is so strong that I find it difficult to be treated fairly by people who don’t know me well if the first thing they know about me is that I do not believe in God.

Yet it is exactly such behavior which reinforces the perception that atheism is something to be ashamed about. It is, in fact, one of the causes of the perception that there is a difference between “nonbeliever” and “atheist.”

February 18, 2011 at 2:50 am
(32) Micho says:

I like non-beliver fine. I like the definition, Bright, as a person holding a defined point of view.
I’m OK with atheist. But it is an empty definition. It’s like saying, “I am not Danish.”
OK I’m an not Danish, but you really don’t know anything about me, my thoughts, belifs, or world view.

February 21, 2011 at 5:38 pm
(33) Achiuakuna says:

I don’t believe in God, but I always try to make the distinction and tell people that I’m NOT an atheist. Not because all that self-victimization atheists always use (OMG we are the least trusted group and people who claim to be an atheist is discriminated against~). No. It’s not that. The reason I don’t consider myself an atheist is because I have better things to do in life than self-victimization and bothering a bunch of unrelated people about their beliefs. It’s exactly the fact that atheists wouldn’t shut up about their little problem that makes me not want to be a butthurt a**hole who has to talk about religion all the time like them. Seriously. Atheists need to stop talking about religion. Even the religious people don’t talk THAT much about religion. They just bother people way the hell too much and I’m sure most of the nonbelievers share my sentiment about not being labeled as a butthurt crybaby.

February 21, 2011 at 8:15 pm
(34) Austin Cline says:

The reason I don’t consider myself an atheist is because I have better things to do in life than self-victimization and bothering a bunch of unrelated people about their beliefs.

None of which is relevant to the definition of “atheism.”

It’s exactly the fact that atheists wouldn’t shut up about their little problem that makes me not want to be a butthurt a**hole who has to talk about religion all the time like them.

Then why do you sound so butthurt about it?

Seriously. Atheists need to stop talking about religion.

Why?

Even the religious people don’t talk THAT much about religion.

Amazing that you find yourself capable of generalizing about every single religious person on the planet like that. Where’d you come by such all-encompassing knowledge?

They just bother people way the hell too much and I’m sure most of the nonbelievers share my sentiment about not being labeled as a butthurt crybaby.

Says the person behaving like a butthurt crybaby.

I don’t believe in God

Which means you’re an atheist. Get used to the idea.

February 22, 2011 at 6:33 pm
(35) Achiuakuna says:

Thanks for reminding me why I’d never want to be called an atheist ever again. You want personal insults? Fine. Butthurt atheists like you fail at life too much that you can’t even defend your little article on a website without excessive personal insults. Let’s see, not counting all your previous posts, you were incapable of understanding a statement, made a personal attack instead of responding, incapable of understanding a statement again, nit-picked and use failed sarcasm to avoid coming up with a response, and another personal attack to avoid stating your position. Then you ended up with an arrogant assertion. Wow. How enlightening for not writing anything~

Keep playing your little mental masturbation while not contributing anything useful to society. You are not gonna convince anybody to view atheists in a better light until you stop being an arrogant self-victimizer and actually face what is being asked.

February 26, 2011 at 7:47 am
(36) Grandpa_In_The_East says:

I define myself as “atheist.” The term “Non-believer” sounds too much like a plea for spiritual guidience and it is often received in that way, in my experience.

If someone were to ask me for a definition, I would answer: “One lacking any belief in any gods.” I would not feel the need to include tooth fairies, demons and angels.

If my inquisitor were to tell me that it meant “One who declares there is no God.” I would respond that that was one of many, many lies spewed from the pulpits of America.” I define these “lies” as unsupported matters of “faith” that defy logic and lack evidence.

Brian and others began their comments in a rude manner: For instance, “There’s no need to justify your personal bias.” Brian (and certain others) were unworthy of a courteous answer. They were merely dumping garbage. I doubt seriously if they were in search for truth or if they had any to share.

Your patience are astonishing.

Grandpa

February 26, 2011 at 2:27 pm
(37) Joram Arentved says:

Brian, I don’t claim that God Itself didn’t exist, however, there
is bad news with & from me, if it’s not Its Existence, at least It’s Its Behavior, to myself A Symbol & A Repetition of the fact, yes, still that if anyone asks ME to count on The Church, what then happens, is just another self contradiction of mine, one, whose alternative in that case & meanwhile, of course, means more to me than any risk, mine, of treating myself like
whatever ‘famous’ labor compromise, only there has It too often contradicted me, also Its Own & ‘Famous’ Existence, so that I can at least & of course, like before, like so many other, become & concentrate on, what’s more & most important to me, also what it is, e.g. my own & voluntary ‘self testimony(!),’ yes, still to being happy to exist as a self determined man, greetings, ‘J.A.’ Ifoundittout@yahoo.com, long live the Buddhism.

February 26, 2011 at 7:04 pm
(38) DamnRight says:

I don’t use the term “non-believer” because it suggests I have no beliefs.

I prefer atheist because it references a particular belief, “God(s) exist”, that I don’t share.

If belief in God(s) wasn’t so prevalent and unavoidable, I wouldn’t even care about the label.

March 2, 2011 at 12:58 pm
(39) Todd says:

“I believe it would be safe to say that babies, cats and laptops do not have the capacity to believe in anything”

Cats and babies can and do believe things. A cat might believe that it can jump a particular height or that something interesting is under the couch cushion, or that the vacuum is out to kill it. Babies believe that you disappear when they can’t see you.

Laptops can’t believe anything, so the term atheist simply doesn’t apply to them. Sure, the don’t have the capacity to believe in gods, therefore they don’t (by default) (unless it’s a Cylon laptop). But since the status of belief in gods is not applicable in any way… it’s a non-issue. Like saying math isn’t cold. Well it’s not cold (or warm, hot or cool), because temperature does not apply to math. There’s no variable for math where we can assign a temperature. It can’t be cold or hot or luke warm. We must check the “Not Applicable” box for math’s temperature, or not have the box in the first place because it’s a stupid idea.

We can assign a status of belief in gods to humans that are developed enough to have such a status in one direction or another. Then and only then does the variable for belief make an appearance.

Atheism means what it means… a lack of belief in gods. Cats are not atheist. They don’t have a radio button for that at all. We can say babies are born w/o beliefs in gods, but it doesn’t make much sense to call them atheist any more than it would to call them non-Keynesian or non-Anarchist.

July 5, 2011 at 7:28 pm
(40) Ralph says:

Austin Cline you wrote

“Etymologically, it is correct. The definition I give is the standard definition found in most unabridged dictionaries going back more than a century and it has been used by freethinkers that way going back to the 19th century.”

I agree with you on the etymology part . But I’m pretty confident to say etymologies are not definitions. Words can mean different things than their literal word histories. The word ‘atheism’ like all words does not get it’s meaning from its etymology, it gets it’s meaning from it’s collective use in the linguistic community. So ‘atheism’ can have either the negative of the positive meaning depending on the context, the users intention, etc.

Yes, I *also* use that standard definition of disbelief in deities, but I have to play devils advocate here. Are you not using an argument from authority when imply that the definition is accurate because it’s in those specialized references and were used by early freethinkers? If atheism was defined as an ideology, or an immoral religion, by those early freethinkers and those specialized references or unabridged dictionaries, can you please tell me exactly what’s stopping you from using those idiosyncratic definitions?

please and thank you.

July 5, 2011 at 7:40 pm
(41) Austin Cline says:

But I’m pretty confident to say etymologies are not definitions.

You did notice, didn’t you, that I was responding to a comment about etymology?

Yes, I *also* use that standard definition of disbelief in deities, but I have to play devils advocate here. Are you not using an argument from authority when imply that the definition is accurate because it’s in those specialized references and were used by early freethinkers?

Word get their meaning from their “collective use in the linguistic community”. So citing a dictionary which describes how a word is used is not an argument from authority.

September 6, 2011 at 11:52 am
(42) maximo hudson says:

Atheists vs Non-Believers: Apples and Oranges (A take on Non-Believers from an Atheist-Buddhist-Believer POV.)

Non-Believers are powerfully prejudiced towards assumptions related to spirituality. For such assumptions they demand a 100% verification of the matter in order for it not to classified as some sort of naive wishful-thinking.

What we are talking about here is an example of risk assessment and management for which a Non-Believer sets an extremely cumbersome standard. Yet when it comes to assumptions in their own daily lives not related to spirituality, their standards are not nearly so high.

Examples of such common assumptions include starting up an engine without first checking the oil, crossing over an overpass without first ascertaining its structual integrety and making plans for a future date. -mh

September 20, 2011 at 2:04 pm
(43) Dean says:

One thing on cats and rolls of toilet paper being atheists if atheism is ‘lacking belief in any gods’: A valid definition of atheist is someone (i.e., an unspecified person) who does not believe in any gods; and cats and rolls of toilet paper are not persons.

November 17, 2011 at 10:04 pm
(44) Tim says:

This very long, and very humorous discussion I think underscores the point of why so many people do not prefer to be labeled “atheists” — namely, that they probably don’t want to be associated with this kind of rhetoric, and yet they want some way to communicate that they are not theists.

“Non-believer” seems to be an attempt at such a communication, but with this kind of thread, apparently not.

Is there a way to communicate my non-belief in god(s) without this silly argumentative dance? A way to communicate my non-belief without the certainty of opinions and instead to inquire (to truly inquire) into the whole of life, the whole of our existence? A way to communicate a serious interest in this uncertainty of life…?

November 18, 2011 at 5:05 am
(45) Austin Cline says:

This very long, and very humorous discussion I think underscores the point of why so many people do not prefer to be labeled “atheists” — namely, that they probably don’t want to be associated with this kind of rhetoric

Yet, you are unable to identify any problems in the above.

and yet they want some way to communicate that they are not theists.

That’s precisely what the term “atheist” does – and that’s all it does. Anything else you associate with it is a product of your own prejudices.

Is there a way to communicate my non-belief in god(s) without this silly argumentative dance?

Yes, “atheist”.

A way to communicate my non-belief without the certainty of opinions and instead to inquire (to truly inquire) into the whole of life, the whole of our existence?

Try saying “I inquire into the whole of lie and existence.”

December 18, 2011 at 7:14 pm
(46) maximo hudson says:

Many atheists / non-believers live every day of their lives based upon assumptions which they do not bother to verify. For example they may well go to sleep without a CO2 detector verifying that the air they are breathing is safe or they will own a clock and talk about time even though science cannot verify that time exists. Etc., etc. It therefore seems somewhat disingenuous to me that it is only when it comes to spiritual matters that many atheists / non-believers insist on contemporaneous verification – and the problem with contemporaneous verification is that it’s contemporaneous. The blood that a few years ago could not be verified to belong to a specific individual can now be tested for DNA while black holes that were only recently theoretical can now be viewed. I have no problem with a person being an atheist based upon belief or temperamental preference/predisposition. What I have difficulty with, however, is when they attempt to state their “spiritual” beliefs are based upon fact and not mere speculation.

December 19, 2011 at 2:09 pm
(47) Austin Cline says:

Many atheists / non-believers live every day of their lives based upon assumptions which they do not bother to verify.

So?

It therefore seems somewhat disingenuous to me that it is only when it comes to spiritual matters that many atheists / non-believers insist on contemporaneous verification

Do they only insist that with “spiritual” matters? OK, prove it.

What I have difficulty with, however, is when they attempt to state their “spiritual” beliefs are based upon fact and not mere speculation.

So, no atheist takes a position on religious matters that is based on fact?

April 12, 2012 at 10:54 am
(48) Arngrím says:

The problem with the label “atheist” is that it does not make sense in the mind of an individual that does not believe in supernatural beings like gods!

Why can´t you just be a person and let all the others battle with their religious labels.

There are thieves in this world, but that does not make all others “non-thieves”!

There are rapists, but that does not make all others “non-rapists”!

So, let´s get over it and let people without religion be left in peace, without label!

June 5, 2013 at 12:58 am
(49) jpawlenko says:

u have lied the way through this revulsion. u who claim u know of god, he is disgusted in u. u will live out in the end in darknesss. he did his best 2 try & make u a better soul. u just could not c beyond the black. now u u will lost in it, so best of LUCK u stupid fools. :)

August 31, 2013 at 10:37 pm
(50) Michael says:

I think this last comment is from a believer in God, don’t you?
I just looked up ‘believer’ and found that it is “to have confidence in the truth, the existence, or the reliability of something, although without absolute proof that one is right in doing so”.

I don’t believe that the sun is there, I can see it and there is a lot of evidence about its existence. I don’t think that there is much real proof that there is any god. It is widely known that religion has evolved without real factual proof of what is said in the bible, or any other book supports the existence of any god. I do think that religion is merely the expression of the male ego and his need to dominate his surroundings.

I found the proceeding comments very deep and without much value to me a true non-intellectual. However I do think that you all had a good time. I hope no one is mad or have hurt feelings. ;)

October 17, 2013 at 9:24 am
(51) Pat says:

Religion defies logic, we know.

There could be no atheism without the theology that created the concept of God. therefore, if there is God there must be nonbelievers, a term equal to atheist, but rooted in fact that no one can prove God exists/existed as anything more than a product of superstition/fiction of ancient origin carried forward to present.

Value judgments of nonbelievers is discrminatory, by definition, as it presumes the preference for religion/God is universal, or more correct, favorable, or necessary than not.

Tradition can be wrong, and even evil, if based upon lies.

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