Atheism, Non-Theism Question

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Darias
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Atheism, Non-Theism Question

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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:

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Re: Atheism, Non-Theism Question

Post #41

Post by NoisForm »

Darias wrote: I don't mean to beat a dead horse that's been beat to death before...
No worries - all the horses are long dead by now. We just put different hats on them and kick them about as if they were novel. ;)

Many an atheist will opt for the lack of belief definition simply because it is the most inclusive. This was my reason to be sure, in spite of your hinting that it has more to do with avoiding the concept of belief, or eluding the need to defend a position, etc.

Hierarchically, the implicit/weak/negative/agnostic atheist (as these are all essentially synonymous) resides at the top, and all others, not that there's a whole host of them, logically follow or are encompassed by that simple definition.

It is the largest and broadest tent. It encompasses all other possible definitions of atheism by describing the single attribute that is both sufficient and necessary when defining atheist. This cannot be said of any other variety or 'degree' of atheism, and therefore any other definition of atheism, as they only become more specific and less inclusive from there.

A simple example to illustrate; If one were to ask you to describe (or define) an automobile, I think it would be a mistake to begin with a detailed description of the tail fins found on a '57 Chevy, or the squat hatchback of a Ford Pinto. The best - read:most useful - definition would be one that attempts to include characteristics which would be common to all automobiles if possible. With regard to atheism, 'not having a belief in god' is that characteristic.

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Re: Atheism, Non-Theism Question

Post #42

Post by wiploc »

Darias wrote: 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.
If you don't believe a god exists, then you are an atheist.


I know that the distinction is stressed so that a Theist can't attribute unprovable belief to a Non-Theist.
That's not why we make the distinction. I'm happy to debate as a strong atheist, one who believes that no gods exist.


It is also stressed because a number of Non-theists don't want to be associated with the word "belief."
I never heard of that. I'm skeptical.


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)"
Depends whether you are using the figure of speech called litotes. If you say "not half bad" to mean "very good," then you are using litotes. Likewise if you say "He's not dumb" to mean "He's really smart," or "It wasn't my favorite movie" to mean that the movie sucked.

That's litotes, a figure of speech. So the question is, were you using litotes when you wrote, "I do not believe in the existence of any god(s)"? If not, if you were being literal, then, no, it does not logically follow.

If I don't believe there are an even number of stars in the universe, does it follow that I believe there are an odd number of stars? If I don't believe you have twenty-seven cents in your pocket, does it follow that I believe you don't have twenty-seven cents there? If I don't believe that there is a highest prime number, does it follow that I believe there is not a highest prime number? In all cases, the answer is no.

Likewise, if I don't believe that there is are gods, it does not follow that there are not gods.

Some people believe there are gods.
Some people believe there are no gods.
Some people do not believe either way.

Does not the former ultimately lead to the latter?
No, of course not. Some people who don't believe either way will end up as theists (those who believe gods exist), others will end up as strong atheists (those who believe gods do not exist), and yet others will remain weak atheists (those who don't believe either way).


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...
Old nomenclature:
- theists believe gods exist.
- atheists believe gods do not exist.
- agnostics are everyone else.

New nomenclature:
- theists believe gods exist.
- strong atheists believe gods do not exist.
- weak atheists are everyone else.

So a weak atheist is exactly an "agnostic non-theist."


If you are an Atheist, how can you honestly say one without at least feeling the other?
That makes no more sense than the opposite question: "If you're not a strong atheist, how can you honestly say you aren't a theist?"

Some people don't believe either way. They can honestly say that they are neither theists nor strong atheists.


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"?
No, it's saying, "Don't confuse atheism with strong atheism." You used the word "non-theist." "Atheist" is a synonym. All non-theists are atheists. An atheist is any person who does not believe that gods exist. Atheists include a great many people who don't hold a belief that gods do not exist.

Think of babies. They don't have opinions either way. They've never considered the question at all. So they are, by definition, weak atheists. They are atheists who are not strong atheists.


You can't really state one position without the other being true as well.
I think you're probably slipping back and forth in your mind between the old nomenclature and the new. There was a time when "atheist" referred to those who believe gods do not exist. And many people still talk that way today. That terminology recognized/legitimate/popular/defensible. But it's not the terminology you're discussing.

When people say an atheist doesn't necessarily believe gods don't exist, then are using the new nomenclature. What they mean by "atheist" is what you mean by "non-theist."

If all "I am an atheist" means is "I am not a theist," then of course it is possible to be an atheist without believing gods don't exist.


If I didn't believe that gods existed, I would certainly say gods don't exist, even if I couldn't prove it.
That makes no sense. If you are indifferent to lobster, would you certainly call it delicious? If you don't have an opinion either way about whether OJ killed his wife, would you certainly call him a murderer? If you have no opinion about whether agnosticism is defensible, would you certainly call it defensible?

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Re: Atheism, Non-Theism Question

Post #43

Post by EduChris »

wiploc wrote:...Some people believe there are gods.
...Some people believe there are no gods.
...Some people do not believe either way...
One's personal beliefs are of no consequence on a debate site such as this. The only things that matter are the arguments presented for or against a particular debate question.

The overriding question is whether our universe and our selves have become what we are as a result of causation which is strictly less than personal, or not.

Simply maintaining that one does not yet have sufficient reason to decide the question is not really a debate position; rather, it is an admission that the debate is not yet settled in one's own mind.

I don't see any arguments for either position which can be settled (even in principle) by empirical evidence. However, it does seem to me that if we start with the assumption of "strictly less than personal causation," we end up undermining logic, reason, freedom, justice, responsibility, and so many of the immaterial things which make human life precious, meaningful, and unique. That is why I conclude that non-theism is self-referentially incoherent.
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

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Re: Atheism, Non-Theism Question

Post #44

Post by wiploc »

EduChris wrote:
wiploc wrote:...Some people believe there are gods.
...Some people believe there are no gods.
...Some people do not believe either way...
One's personal beliefs are of no consequence on a debate site such as this.
Your claim that non-theism is "self-referentially incoherent" is of no consequence in a thread such as this, about the distinction between atheism and agnosticism.


The only things that matter are the arguments presented for or against a particular debate question.
That's your personal belief. You said that personal beliefs have no consequence here.


...

Simply maintaining that one does not yet have sufficient reason to decide the question is not really a debate position; rather, it is an admission that the debate is not yet settled in one's own mind.
That's a straw-man representation of agnosticism/weak atheism. There are plenty of "strong agnostics" who will tell you that the evidence is in, that the evidence is conclusive, and that you are therefore wrong to be anything but an agnostic.


I don't see any arguments for either position which can be settled (even in principle) by empirical evidence. However, it does seem to me that if we start with the assumption of "strictly less than personal causation," we end up undermining logic, reason, freedom, justice, responsibility, and so many of the immaterial things which make human life precious, meaningful, and unique. That is why I conclude that non-theism is self-referentially incoherent.
I don't think you can defend any of that. Shall we go to a more appropriate thread and discuss them one at a time?

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Re: Atheism, Non-Theism Question

Post #45

Post by EduChris »

wiploc wrote:
The only things that matter are the arguments presented for or against a particular debate question.
That's your personal belief. You said that personal beliefs have no consequence here.
How can a "belief" be debated? Doesn't the very nature of "debate" demand that arguments be presented? If one debator simply says, "I believe X," and the other debator merely responds, "I don't believe X," how can we tell which side has carried the debate?

wiploc wrote:
Simply maintaining that one does not yet have sufficient reason to decide the question is not really a debate position; rather, it is an admission that the debate is not yet settled in one's own mind.
...There are plenty of "strong agnostics" who will tell you that the evidence is in, that the evidence is conclusive, and that you are therefore wrong to be anything but an agnostic...
Your statement would make more sense if the word "conclusive" were replaced by "inconclusive."

wiploc wrote:
I don't see any arguments for either position which can be settled (even in principle) by empirical evidence. However, it does seem to me that if we start with the assumption of "strictly less than personal causation," we end up undermining logic, reason, freedom, justice, responsibility, and so many of the immaterial things which make human life precious, meaningful, and unique. That is why I conclude that non-theism is self-referentially incoherent.
I don't think you can defend any of that. Shall we go to a more appropriate thread and discuss them one at a time?
If you wish.
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

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Re: Atheism, Non-Theism Question

Post #46

Post by Goat »

EduChris wrote:
wiploc wrote:...Some people believe there are gods.
...Some people believe there are no gods.
...Some people do not believe either way...
One's personal beliefs are of no consequence on a debate site such as this. The only things that matter are the arguments presented for or against a particular debate question.

The overriding question is whether our universe and our selves have become what we are as a result of causation which is strictly less than personal, or not.

Simply maintaining that one does not yet have sufficient reason to decide the question is not really a debate position; rather, it is an admission that the debate is not yet settled in one's own mind.

I don't see any arguments for either position which can be settled (even in principle) by empirical evidence. However, it does seem to me that if we start with the assumption of "strictly less than personal causation," we end up undermining logic, reason, freedom, justice, responsibility, and so many of the immaterial things which make human life precious, meaningful, and unique. That is why I conclude that non-theism is self-referentially incoherent.

How amusing. I don't see how the question can be answered through the gobble gook philosophy that is claiming to try to answer the question without empirical evidence. I see it argument from consequences and argument from personal need undermining logic, reason, freedom , justice and so many of the thing it claims to protect, with the additional fault of abdication of personal responsibility.
“What do you think science is? There is nothing magical about science. It is simply a systematic way for carefully and thoroughly observing nature and using consistent logic to evaluate results. So which part of that exactly do you disagree with? Do you disagree with being thorough? Using careful observation? Being systematic? Or using consistent logic?�

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Re: Atheism, Non-Theism Question

Post #47

Post by EduChris »

Goat wrote:...gobble gook philosophy...
Philosophy is the disciplined pursuit of intellectual integrity.

Goat wrote:...argument from consequences and argument from personal need ...
Those who take philosophy seriously understand that if the conclusion of a valid argument results in incoherence, then the premises of the argument must be false.
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

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Re: Atheism, Non-Theism Question

Post #48

Post by Jashwell »

EduChris wrote:
wiploc wrote:...Some people believe there are gods.
...Some people believe there are no gods.
...Some people do not believe either way...
One's personal beliefs are of no consequence on a debate site such as this. The only things that matter are the arguments presented for or against a particular debate question.

The overriding question is whether our universe and our selves have become what we are as a result of causation which is strictly less than personal, or not.

Simply maintaining that one does not yet have sufficient reason to decide the question is not really a debate position; rather, it is an admission that the debate is not yet settled in one's own mind.

I don't see any arguments for either position which can be settled (even in principle) by empirical evidence. However, it does seem to me that if we start with the assumption of "strictly less than personal causation," we end up undermining logic, reason, freedom, justice, responsibility, and so many of the immaterial things which make human life precious, meaningful, and unique. That is why I conclude that non-theism is self-referentially incoherent.
You do just as well to assume that logic, ethics and so forth exist as you would if you assumed that a God existed that imbued these.

Assuming a God does not in itself solve the problem. One must still appeal to the God in the first place - e.g. for morality, what is the moral value of choosing God as the basis for your moral system? If you define God as omni-benevolent, you are left with a circular morality, as you would be if you simply believed benevolence existed independently.

You put too much trust in causation, imho. It is a very arbitrary concept that is deeply inscribed with common sense notions that may not apply outside the little human bubble of reality in which we evolved.

Self-referentiality is not an incoherency. Circular logic is valid, though not necessarily sound. "A is A" is a logical axiom. It is the law of self referentiality, if you wish to put it that way.
I believe in logic out of psychological necessity, like every other human being on the planet. It seems to work for me anyway, I've never had problems with it.
A belief contingent on you being a human being can be ignored when discussed between human beings. Those with presuppositions in common can ignore the shared ground, so to say. (Think tetris)

Theism does not escape self-referential logic either.

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Re: Atheism, Non-Theism Question

Post #49

Post by Goat »

EduChris wrote:
Goat wrote:...gobble gook philosophy...
Philosophy is the disciplined pursuit of intellectual integrity.

Goat wrote:...argument from consequences and argument from personal need ...
Those who take philosophy seriously understand that if the conclusion of a valid argument results in incoherence, then the premises of the argument must be false.

Philosophers might want to define that as 'a disciplined pursuit of intellectual integrity'. However. when you can not show your premise, can not confirm the steps between your premise and your conclusion, nor can you test your conclusion, there is no integrity about it. While there are portions of philosophy that you can verify results, or help in the process of figuring out 'how do we know what we know'... a huge section is nothing but word salad, and patting ones self on the back to show how clever you are.

ANy attempt at the ontological arguments fall in the useless category.

The sections that don't are 'how do we know what we know'.. and most of the sub field of ethics. Those two sub sections of philosophy have practical applications.

Trying to mix in theology basically is part of the worthless category.
“What do you think science is? There is nothing magical about science. It is simply a systematic way for carefully and thoroughly observing nature and using consistent logic to evaluate results. So which part of that exactly do you disagree with? Do you disagree with being thorough? Using careful observation? Being systematic? Or using consistent logic?�

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Re: Atheism, Non-Theism Question

Post #50

Post by Mr.Badham »

[Replying to ProphetSHSU]

I think it would be more like this;
Your mother tells you at a very early age that there is a magical gumball machine somewhere, either inside or outside the universe, that may or may not be subject to time and physical space. It has an even number of gumballs in it, and if you don't believe that you will suffer for eternity.
Later you find out that there are others who believe in the same gumball machine, but that it has an odd number of gumballs in it. When you ask why, you're told that they believe in an odd number of gumballs because they are evil, and incapable of morality.

An agnostic says that there is no way of knowing whether the number of gumballs are even or odd.

An atheist realises that the discussion is absurd.

By the way, everyone who reads this must decide for themselves whether or not the magical gumball machine has an even number of gumballs, an odd number of gumballs, or be agnostic about its existence.... cause you can't prove it doesn't exist.

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