Atheism, Non-Theism Question

For the love of the pursuit of knowledge

Moderator: Moderators

Darias
Guru
Posts: 2017
Joined: Sun Jul 18, 2010 10:14 pm

Atheism, Non-Theism Question

Post #1

Post by Darias »

I don't mean to beat a dead horse that's been beat to death before... but I have a few questions.

I've heard it said here that Atheism does not equal a belief that there is no god(s), rather it simply indicates a disbelief in any and all gods which are believed to exist by others.

I know that the distinction is stressed so that a Theist can't attribute unprovable belief to a Non-Theist. It is also stressed because a number of Non-theists don't want to be associated with the word "belief."

But literally speaking, if I say: "I do not believe in the existence of any god(s)"

Does it not logically follow that because "I do not believe in the existence of any god(s)" that "in my opinion(AKA I believe) there is no god(s)"

Does not the former ultimately lead to the latter?

I understand that one is phrased in a way that places the burden of proof on those who believe in gods, and the other is phrased in a way that makes it out to be a positive assertion; so I understand the debate-significance of the distinction.

However, it is hard for me to separate the two - unless the person who states the former is more of an Agnostic Non-Theist...

If you are an Atheist, how can you honestly say one without at least feeling the other?

Isn't saying "To be an Atheist is to not believe in any gods, Atheism does not assert that gods do not exist."

just like saying "The car is around me, but I am not in the car"?


You can't really state one position without the other being true as well.

If I didn't believe that gods existed, I would certainly say gods don't exist, even if I couldn't prove it.

It makes no sense to say "I don't believe in gods, but that doesn't mean I deny their existence."

Does it?

Help me out here seriously. :confused2:

roughdraft274
Newbie
Posts: 4
Joined: Thu Aug 28, 2014 1:26 pm

Re: Atheism, Non-Theism Question

Post #51

Post by roughdraft274 »

Darias wrote:
Question Everything wrote:The best way to put it is that I have no reason to believe that a god exists. I would change my mind very quickly if I came across strong enough evidence for one.
But you and I both know that no such evidence exists. Which brings me back to my original question.

You have no reason to believe that gods exist, because there is no evidence for the existence of gods, ergo there are no gods -- unless evidence magically arises to prove the existence of gods -- in which case that will never happen.

Therefore, back to square one.
Lack of evidence doesn't prove that something doesn't exist. It really is that simple in my mind.

You could even conclude that it's very unlikely that there is a God. Or "I believe there are no Gods". But to come to the conclusion "there are no gods" I think is to make an assertion that you can't back up at all.

And that's what it coils down to. I don't like making assertions that I can't defend. I can defend "I lack belief because I have seen no convincing evidence." I can not, and wouldn't even know how to begin to defend "There are no Gods".

Also, no, you and I do NOT KNOW that this evidence does not exist. We know that we haven't seen it and it hasn't been presented, but we don't know that it doesn't exist.

User avatar
Cephus
Prodigy
Posts: 2991
Joined: Tue Jun 07, 2005 7:33 pm
Location: Redlands, CA
Been thanked: 1 time
Contact:

Re: Atheism, Non-Theism Question

Post #52

Post by Cephus »

Darias wrote:
Question Everything wrote:The best way to put it is that I have no reason to believe that a god exists. I would change my mind very quickly if I came across strong enough evidence for one.
But you and I both know that no such evidence exists. Which brings me back to my original question.

You have no reason to believe that gods exist, because there is no evidence for the existence of gods, ergo there are no gods -- unless evidence magically arises to prove the existence of gods -- in which case that will never happen.

Therefore, back to square one.
No, not back to square one. If there isn't evidence for the truth of those beliefs, then NOBODY ought to believe it. NOBODY. That doesn't go just for gods but for all manner of things with no evidence. Ghosts, leprechauns, unicorns, Bigfoot, you name it, gods don't get a special pass.

But we don't reject the possibility of these things, we simply see no reason to think they are true and until that evidence is presented, until it is shown that these things are actually real, we will continue to find no reason to take them seriously. Lacking belief leaves open the possibility that, pending later evidence, we can change our mind. Belief in the non-existence of these things shuts that door.

That's the difference.
Want to hear more? Check out my blog!
Watch my YouTube channel!
There is nothing demonstrably true that religion can provide the world that cannot be achieved more rationally through entirely secular means.

User avatar
Cephus
Prodigy
Posts: 2991
Joined: Tue Jun 07, 2005 7:33 pm
Location: Redlands, CA
Been thanked: 1 time
Contact:

Post #53

Post by Cephus »

ChaosBorders wrote:
Darias wrote:The only way for an Atheist to avoid conclusion c. is if they acknowledge the possibility of god(s) existence apart from physical proof/evidence (current and future).

And if they did that, they would no longer be an Atheist, but an Agnostic Atheist.

I myself acknowledge the possibility that God may not exist; I suppose that makes me an Agnostic Theist.
The vast majority of atheists are weak agnostic atheists. Many others are ignostics. Anyone who states that God is a possibility, just one they don't have enough evidence for to believe in, is in effect saying "I don't know that there's not a god" (and thus are agnostic). Those who claim they know that there is not a god are strong atheists and have the same burden of proof as a theist claiming that they know that there is one.
Just to quibble, NOBODY knows that there's a god, even believers. Knowledge requires some demonstrable basis and there simply isn't any. There is no objective evidence for the existence of any supernatural entity, therefore by that definition, everyone has to be an agnostic and nobody can rationally claim to have knowledge about gods at all. It's all belief, which is just opinion.
Want to hear more? Check out my blog!
Watch my YouTube channel!
There is nothing demonstrably true that religion can provide the world that cannot be achieved more rationally through entirely secular means.

User avatar
wiploc
Guru
Posts: 1423
Joined: Sun Apr 20, 2014 12:26 pm
Been thanked: 2 times

Re: Atheism, Non-Theism Question

Post #54

Post by wiploc »

Darias wrote: I've heard it said here that Atheism does not equal a belief that there is no god(s),
"Disbelief" can mean not having the belief, or it can mean having the opposite belief. Dictionaries define it both ways. The world is inherently ambiguous. Therefore, it is a terrible word to introduce into a discussion where you are trying to get rid of an ambiguity.




rather it simply indicates a disbelief in any and all gods which are believed to exist by others.
"Believed to exist by others" is no part of this. Theists believe in gods; atheists don't. We don't have a belief in any gods, regardless of whether they are believed in by others.


I know that the distinction is stressed so that a Theist can't attribute unprovable belief to a Non-Theist.
All non-theists are atheists. That has nothing to do with attributing unprovable beliefs.


It is also stressed because a number of Non-theists don't want to be associated with the word "belief."
It is stressed because many theists only want to classify strong atheists (those who believe that gods do not exist) under the label "atheist." Many atheists are strong atheists. We're happy to be associated with our belief that gods don't exist. All atheists have beliefs. Most of us believe that the sun will rise in the morning.

So we aren't shy of the word "belief." We just want all of us to be counted: Everyone who isn't a theist is an atheist.


But literally speaking, if I say: "I do not believe in the existence of any god(s)"

Does it not logically follow that because "I do not believe in the existence of any god(s)" that "in my opinion(AKA I believe) there is no god(s)"
No. No, it does not. You are being confused by a figure of speech.

You may not be familiar with the word Litotes, but you use the figure frequently, naturally, unconsciously. Litotes is where you understate for effect. You achieve an extreme effect by understating in the opposite direction.

I know that doesn't make sense yet, but examples will help. If you want to say someone is very stupid, you might say, "He isn't the sharpest pencil in the box." That means he's really really dull, right?

Eliminating the metaphor, you could call somebody dumb by saying, "He's not the smartest person."

That means he's really very dumb? It does if you are using the figure of speech called litotes. But what if you're not? What if you're being literal?

If you are being literal, then, "He's not the smartest person," only means exactly what it says. He could be really smart; he could be the second-smartest person.

So the meaning of "I don't believe in god" depends on whether it is literal or a figure of speech. If it is a figure of speech, it means, "I believe that god does not exist." If it is literal, it only means that you don't happen to have the belief that god does exist.

You have to judge by context, and context may not help. What's more, we use litotes so naturally and unconsciously that you could ask the speaker, and the speaker often won't know which she meant.

So the answer to your question is that, "I do not believe in the existence of any god(s)" may mean that you believe gods don't exist, but it also may just mean that you don't believe in gods.

Consider these three positions:

A. Those who believe that gods do exist.
B. Those who believe that gods do not exist.
C. Those (everybody else) who don't believe either way.

Many people are in category C. They don't believe in gods, but they also don't believe that gods don't exist.

Saying that you don't believe in gods doesn't necessarily put you in category B.


Does not the former ultimately lead to the latter?
No, not necessarily. People in category C also don't believe in gods.


I understand that one is phrased in a way that places the burden of proof on those who believe in gods, and the other is phrased in a way that makes it out to be a positive assertion; so I understand the debate-significance of the distinction.
That's not the point at all. The point is that even if you lack the belief that gods don't exist, you are still an atheist so long as you also lack the belief that gods do exist.

Those of us who are strong atheists (category B) are happy to have the burden of proof in debate. What we're not happy about is being told that "atheist" doesn't include weak atheists.


However, it is hard for me to separate the two
I hope I've straightened that out for you.


- unless the person who states the former is more of an Agnostic Non-Theist...
That's still ambiguous. I'm an agnostic strong atheist: I believe that no gods exist, but I don't know that for a fact.


If you are an Atheist, how can you honestly say one without at least feeling the other?
Now you're calling people in category C dishonest? If so, then right back at you.


Isn't saying "To be an Atheist is to not believe in any gods, Atheism does not assert that gods do not exist."

just like saying "The car is around me, but I am not in the car"?
It's more like saying that being outside of your car doesn't necessarily mean I'm inside some other car.


You can't really state one position without the other being true as well.
Nonsense. Lots of people don't believe either way. There are probably more weak atheists than strong atheists. Think of babies, who have never had a thought about gods. Think of people who used to be strong atheists but are on their way to becoming theists. Think of people who used to be theists but are on their way to becoming strong atheists. Think of strong agnostics (people think theists and strong atheists are all stupid). Think of me as I read Paley's classic watch argument; I was so impressed by the first part that I expected to be a Christian by the end of the essay--but I wasn't a theist yet.

Think of someone who says, "I'm not in Canada." Does that mean he is in Mexico? No, he could be somewhere between. Think of someone who says, "I don't like bland food." Does that mean she wants her food extremely spicy? Not necessarily. She could like medium spicing.

There is nothing illogical or uncommon in lacking both the belief that gods do not exist and also the belief that gods do exist. Millions of people are in that position.


If I didn't believe that gods existed, I would certainly say gods don't exist, even if I couldn't prove it.
What if you didn't believe either way? You wouldn't have the belief that gods do exist, but you also wouldn't have the belief that gods don't exist. So why would you certainly say that gods don't exist?


It makes no sense to say "I don't believe in gods, but that doesn't mean I deny their existence."
Wrong.


Does it?
Yes, you are wrong.


Help me out here seriously. :confused2:
[/quote]

Not all negative statements are figures of speech. Some are literal. Someone who is "not tall" may be of medium height rather than being short. And someone who doesn't believe in god may also not believe that gods do not exist.

User avatar
EduChris
Prodigy
Posts: 4615
Joined: Mon Aug 02, 2010 4:34 pm
Location: U.S.A.
Contact:

Re: Atheism, Non-Theism Question

Post #55

Post by EduChris »

Darias wrote:...if I say: "I do not believe in the existence of any god(s)"

Does it not logically follow that because "I do not believe in the existence of any god(s)" that "in my opinion(AKA I believe) there is no god(s)"

Does not the former ultimately lead to the latter?...
On a debate site, one's personal beliefs—the subjective psychological condition of the debater—makes no difference at all. Beliefs don't win or lose debates; arguments (or lack thereof) do.

So I don't care how anyone characterizes their "beliefs." I want to know, "What arguments can you produce?"

That said, the matter of God's "existence" is a question that became obsolete 1500 years ago when the religions that would become today's major world theisms won out over the contingent gods of polytheism. All of today's major world theisms reject the notion of "God(s)" as some sort of being(s) which "exist(s)" similarly to the way in which other contingent things exist. Instead, God is viewed as the ultimate reality within which all existence finds its being.

In other words, given the way that all of today's major world theisms conceive of God, the question is not "Does God exist?"; rather, the question is: "What is the nature of the ultimate reality within which our universe finds its being?"
I am a work in process; I do not claim absolute knowledge or absolute certainty; I simply present the best working hypothesis I have at the moment, always pending new information and further insight.

α β γ δ ε ζ η θ ι κ λ μ ν ξ ο π � σ ς τ υ φ χ ψ ω - Α Β Γ Δ Ε Ζ Η Θ Ι Κ Λ Μ � Ξ Ο Π Ρ Σ Τ Υ Φ Χ Ψ Ω

Post Reply