To be clear: Atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; it is a lack of belief in gods.

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Sherlock Holmes
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To be clear: Atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; it is a lack of belief in gods.

Post #1

Post by Sherlock Holmes »

To be clear the title of this thread is false.

There are currently several purported definitions of atheism, personally I always use the real one, the established one, the one used historically in books on theology, philosophy and so on, the one that's been around for hundreds of years.

But there are some who like to use a different definition one made up one afternoon by Antony Flew in the 1970s in a rather obscure book The Presumption of Atheism.

Nobody paid much attention to this until relatively recently where it became fashionable amongst militant atheists, some of whom even insist that Flew's definition is the true definition.

You can read more about this hand waving and other foot stamping here.

It's also worth noting that there are plenty of atheists who rely on the historic definition and do not agree with this attempt to redefine it, so any pretense that all atheists adopt the "lack of belief" view is false, many atheists do not share that definition at all.
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Re: To be clear: Atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; it is a lack of belief in gods.

Post #21

Post by JoeyKnothead »

historia wrote: Fri Jan 21, 2022 10:29 pm Consider, for example, the definition of atheism cited above from American Atheists:
American Atheists wrote:
...
...
This is kinda why Catholics disregard that bunch that says they ain't "true Christians". Or The Jehovah's Witnesses. Or any group that rejects any attempt to define who they are, or what they do or don't believe.

The American Atheists no more speak for me than I speak for you.
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Re: To be clear: Atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; it is a lack of belief in gods.

Post #22

Post by benchwarmer »

historia wrote: Fri Jan 21, 2022 10:29 pm
benchwarmer wrote: Fri Jan 21, 2022 3:20 pm
It seems this thread and others like it are trying to paint atheists in some sort of corner that levels the playing field between not having god beliefs and having god beliefs.
I don't think so. I think this thread and others like it are simply pointing out some incoherence in how some people describe atheism.
SOME people may describe atheism incorrectly, sure. I usually get this from Christians though. Things like: "You're just mad at God!", "You actually believe God is real deep down, but just want to sin", "You claim their is no God", to the current kerfuffle "You actually have beliefs in gods contrary to what you say".

All of the threads in recent memory have been started by THEISTS.
historia wrote: Fri Jan 21, 2022 10:29 pm Consider, for example, the definition of atheism cited above from American Atheists:
American Atheists wrote:
Atheism is not an affirmative belief that there is no god nor does it answer any other question about what a person believes. It is simply a rejection of the assertion that there are gods. Atheism is too often defined incorrectly as a belief system. To be clear: Atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; it is a lack of belief in gods.”
Notice that the two bolded sections directly contradict each other. To "disbelieve" is by definition "to withhold or reject belief," so to reject belief in gods is to disbelieve in gods, yet American Atheists affirms the former while denying the latter.

It seems to me that some atheists on this forum evince a similar confusion precisely on this point when they describe atheism.
I think you might need to read that definition a bit more carefully.

A "rejection of the assertion" is not the same as a rejection of any god whatsoever.

This seems to be the confusion. I, as an atheist, simply don't believe any assertions about there being actual gods that I've heard about. In other words, I don't believe the humans making the positive claims about there being gods. That's it as far as my 'atheist' label goes.

Any further beliefs that I do actually hold are in addition to the basic "I lack belief in gods".

Again: I lack belief in gods. I also believe the Christian God as fully described by the Bible is not real. I also believe some of the other gods I've read about are not real. Finally, I think it's possible that some being may exist that we have not discovered has 'god like' attributes. However, I withhold belief until some verifiable (to me) evidence presents itself.

At the end of the day, while no one seems to be admitting it, it really feels like those starting these types of threads are trying to "gotcha moment" atheists into having them try to support a claim that they've never made, but somehow has been burdened upon them by accepting the label atheist. SOME theists are probably tired of holding the ball in regards to having to support their positive claims about some god. The solution is simple, stop making positive claims about gods. Revert to belief statements and accept that some people don't believe your reasons for belief.

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Re: To be clear: Atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; it is a lack of belief in gods.

Post #23

Post by TRANSPONDER »

Correct. it is the (validity) of the god -claim that is being rejected. It is not (as was the old Theist -based definition) a rejection of "God", who undoubtedly exists.

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Re: To be clear: Atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; it is a lack of belief in gods.

Post #24

Post by alexxcJRO »

Sherlock Holmes wrote: Fri Jan 21, 2022 10:50 am

So how many have you found? how many materially different definitions do you know of?

Q: Not enough definitions for you? :D
Q: What is the matter? :?
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Re: To be clear: Atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; it is a lack of belief in gods.

Post #25

Post by Sherlock Holmes »

I'm curious why the slang "atheism" is used to describe a person who "does not hold a belief that God exists" when the equally relevant "does not hold a belief that God does not exist" is quietly avoided, never mentioned in polite discourse.

How many atheists here agree with one or both of these? I'd like a straight answer please, this is a very reasonable question.

This is why the bastardized definition of "atheism" popular with some people today is vacuous.

If I assert "I do not hold the belief that X is true" and at the same time assert "I do not hold the belief that X is false" then I have no position, it is intellectually a zero, vacuous, the correct term for this position is "I have absolutely no idea if God exists" not atheism.
Last edited by Sherlock Holmes on Sat Jan 22, 2022 11:29 am, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: To be clear: Atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; it is a lack of belief in gods.

Post #26

Post by Sherlock Holmes »

TRANSPONDER wrote: Sat Jan 22, 2022 10:38 am Correct. it is the (validity) of the god -claim that is being rejected. It is not (as was the old Theist -based definition) a rejection of "God", who undoubtedly exists.
It is incorrect actually, one can't just pick some term, redefine it and then say this is now the real meaning of the term.

I refuse to bend to your will on this, the definition of atheism whether you like it or not is established through precedent, this is why the editor of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy replied to this complaint in the way he did:
theresidentskeptic wrote:Dear Stanford,

I am constantly having your definitions of atheism and agnosticism regurgitated to me by people who don’t seem to understand what they mean and your authoritative definition completely muddies the waters.

Your definition which can be seen at the the following link states:
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/atheis…sticism/#1

“‘Agnostic’ is more contextual than is ‘atheist’, as it can be used in a non-theological way, as when a cosmologist might say that she is agnostic about string theory, neither believing nor disbelieving it.”

I am forced to point out to you that agnosticism deals with knowledge claims, not claims of belief. Why are you conflating the two? A belief necessarily deals with a single claim; God exists is one claim; God does not exist is another claim- or String theory is true is one claim; string theory is not true is another claim.

A cosmologist who does not know if either position about string theory is true would be considered an agnostic. The cosmologist then disbelieves claim 1; string theory is true, therefore, for lack of a better term, is an atheist with respect to string theory. They do not necessarily believe that claim 2; string theory is false, is true.

Similarly, with respect to god claims, a person who does not know if either claim (god exists / god does not exist) is true would be an agnostic. The person who disbelieves claim 1; God exists is an atheist and this does not say anything about their acceptance that claim 2; god does not exist, is true.

I will use an analogy:

If I made the claim that there are an odd number of blades of grass in my front yard, would you believe me?

No, you wouldn’t unless I could substantiate that claim (if you are rational). Does that then mean you believe the opposite of that claim? That there are an even number of blades of grass in my front yard? No, you wouldn’t accept that claim either. With respect to your belief in the true dichotomy of the nature of the grass then, you are an atheist; you disbelieve claim 1; there are an odd number of blades of grass. If you don’t know which claim is true, you are an agnostic. The terms are not mutually exclusive.

With respect to god claims, I identify as an agnostic atheist; I do not know if a god exists or not, and I disbelieve the claim that a god does exist.

Gnostic: Of or relating to knowledge, especially esoteric mystical knowledge. –> Therefore it’s opposite, agnostic, relates to a lack of knowledge.

Theist: Belief in the existence of a god or gods, especially belief in one god as creator of the universe, intervening in it and sustaining a personal relation to his creatures –> Therefore it’s opposite, atheist, relates to a lack of belief in the existence of gods and not necessarily the belief in the opposite claim, that no gods exist.

Belief: an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists

Source [for definitions]: Oxford English Dictionary*

Kindly update your definitions to reflect this.

Thank you.

Sincerely,
theresidentskeptic
Here is the reply, emphasis mine:
Uri Nodelman wrote:Dear [theresidentskeptic]

Thank you for writing to us about the entry on atheism and agnosticism. We have received messages about this issue before and are continuing to consider whether and how the entry might be adjusted.

That said, the matter is not as clear cut as you suggest. While the term “atheism” is used in a variety of ways in general discourse, our entry is on its meaning in the philosophical literature. Traditionally speaking, the definition in our entry—that ‘atheism’ means the denial of the existence of Godis correct in the philosophical literature. Some now refer to this standard meaning as “positive atheism” and contrast it with the broader notion of atheism” which has the meaning you suggest—that ‘atheism’ simply means not-theist.

In our understanding, the argument for this broader notion was introduced into the philosophical literature by Antony Flew in “The Presumption of Atheism” (1972). In that work, he noted that he was using an etymological argument to try to convince people *not* to follow the *standard meaning* of the term. His goal was to reframe the debate about the existence of God and to re-brand “atheism” as a default position.

Not everyone has been convinced to use the term in Flew’s way simply on the force of his argument. For some, who consider themselves atheists in the traditional sense, Flew’s efforts seemed to be an attempt to water down a perfectly good concept. For others, who consider themselves agnostics in the traditional sense, Flew’s efforts seemed to be an attempt to re-label them “atheists”—a term they rejected.

All that said, we are continuing to examine the situation regarding the definitions as presented in this entry.

All the best,
Yours,
Uri,

Uri Nodelman Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Senior Editor
CSLI/Cordura Hall editors@plato.stanford.edu
Stanford University ph. 650-723-0488
Stanford, CA 94305-4115 fx. 650-725-2166
Do you understand? you are not the spokesman or representative for all atheists, it is not for you or Dawkins or Hitchens et-al, to tell other atheists what the term "really" means when they are quite content with the already established meaning.
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Re: To be clear: Atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; it is a lack of belief in gods.

Post #27

Post by Sherlock Holmes »

Here is the kind of confusion and blabbering that arise when people who should know better start playing around with definitions:

Hitchens blabbering.
When one has eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.

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Re: To be clear: Atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; it is a lack of belief in gods.

Post #28

Post by alexxcJRO »

Sherlock Holmes wrote: Sat Jan 22, 2022 11:06 am
TRANSPONDER wrote: Sat Jan 22, 2022 10:38 am Correct. it is the (validity) of the god -claim that is being rejected. It is not (as was the old Theist -based definition) a rejection of "God", who undoubtedly exists.
It is incorrect actually, one can't just pick some term, redefine it and then say this is now the real meaning of the term.

I refuse to bend to your will on this, the definition of atheism whether you like it or not is established through precedent, this is why the editor of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy replied to this complaint in the way he did:
theresidentskeptic wrote:Dear Stanford,

I am constantly having your definitions of atheism and agnosticism regurgitated to me by people who don’t seem to understand what they mean and your authoritative definition completely muddies the waters.

Your definition which can be seen at the the following link states:
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/atheis…sticism/#1

“‘Agnostic’ is more contextual than is ‘atheist’, as it can be used in a non-theological way, as when a cosmologist might say that she is agnostic about string theory, neither believing nor disbelieving it.”

I am forced to point out to you that agnosticism deals with knowledge claims, not claims of belief. Why are you conflating the two? A belief necessarily deals with a single claim; God exists is one claim; God does not exist is another claim- or String theory is true is one claim; string theory is not true is another claim.

A cosmologist who does not know if either position about string theory is true would be considered an agnostic. The cosmologist then disbelieves claim 1; string theory is true, therefore, for lack of a better term, is an atheist with respect to string theory. They do not necessarily believe that claim 2; string theory is false, is true.

Similarly, with respect to god claims, a person who does not know if either claim (god exists / god does not exist) is true would be an agnostic. The person who disbelieves claim 1; God exists is an atheist and this does not say anything about their acceptance that claim 2; god does not exist, is true.

I will use an analogy:

If I made the claim that there are an odd number of blades of grass in my front yard, would you believe me?

No, you wouldn’t unless I could substantiate that claim (if you are rational). Does that then mean you believe the opposite of that claim? That there are an even number of blades of grass in my front yard? No, you wouldn’t accept that claim either. With respect to your belief in the true dichotomy of the nature of the grass then, you are an atheist; you disbelieve claim 1; there are an odd number of blades of grass. If you don’t know which claim is true, you are an agnostic. The terms are not mutually exclusive.

With respect to god claims, I identify as an agnostic atheist; I do not know if a god exists or not, and I disbelieve the claim that a god does exist.

Gnostic: Of or relating to knowledge, especially esoteric mystical knowledge. –> Therefore it’s opposite, agnostic, relates to a lack of knowledge.

Theist: Belief in the existence of a god or gods, especially belief in one god as creator of the universe, intervening in it and sustaining a personal relation to his creatures –> Therefore it’s opposite, atheist, relates to a lack of belief in the existence of gods and not necessarily the belief in the opposite claim, that no gods exist.

Belief: an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists

Source [for definitions]: Oxford English Dictionary*

Kindly update your definitions to reflect this.

Thank you.

Sincerely,
theresidentskeptic
Here is the reply, emphasis mine:
Uri Nodelman wrote:Dear [theresidentskeptic]

Thank you for writing to us about the entry on atheism and agnosticism. We have received messages about this issue before and are continuing to consider whether and how the entry might be adjusted.

That said, the matter is not as clear cut as you suggest. While the term “atheism” is used in a variety of ways in general discourse, our entry is on its meaning in the philosophical literature. Traditionally speaking, the definition in our entry—that ‘atheism’ means the denial of the existence of Godis correct in the philosophical literature. Some now refer to this standard meaning as “positive atheism” and contrast it with the broader notion of atheism” which has the meaning you suggest—that ‘atheism’ simply means not-theist.

In our understanding, the argument for this broader notion was introduced into the philosophical literature by Antony Flew in “The Presumption of Atheism” (1972). In that work, he noted that he was using an etymological argument to try to convince people *not* to follow the *standard meaning* of the term. His goal was to reframe the debate about the existence of God and to re-brand “atheism” as a default position.

Not everyone has been convinced to use the term in Flew’s way simply on the force of his argument. For some, who consider themselves atheists in the traditional sense, Flew’s efforts seemed to be an attempt to water down a perfectly good concept. For others, who consider themselves agnostics in the traditional sense, Flew’s efforts seemed to be an attempt to re-label them “atheists”—a term they rejected.

All that said, we are continuing to examine the situation regarding the definitions as presented in this entry.

All the best,
Yours,
Uri,

Uri Nodelman Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Senior Editor
CSLI/Cordura Hall editors@plato.stanford.edu
Stanford University ph. 650-723-0488
Stanford, CA 94305-4115 fx. 650-725-2166
Do you understand? you are not the spokesman or representative for all atheists, it is not for you or Dawkins or Hitchens et-al, to tell other atheists what the term "really" means when they are quite content with the already established meaning.
Q: Don’t understand why do you care if atheists as supported per the definitions I provided want to be called atheists just because they lack a belief in gods? Or want to be called agnostic (weak)atheist or gnostic (strong)atheists?
Definitions change over time.

An agnostic atheist is a neutral position for one does not claim a god or gods does not exits but that he/she just does not believe that one god or gods does exist.
An agnostic atheist knows he/she can’t know a god or gods do not exist. Therefore not a gnostic.
Beliefs are opinions and don’t need to be defended only claims.
A agnostic theist does not need to defend his/her position if he/she does not claim a God exist but just believes.
A gnostic atheist and gnostic theist claims god or gods do not exist and respectively god or gods do exist.
They need to defend their position for they are making a claim.
“I believe god or does not exist” does not equal “god does not exist”.
Q: Clear?

Saying “I believe psychopaths lack affective empathy” is not the same with “Psychopaths lack affective empathy”.
Former does not need defending and latter needs to be defended.

I for example am a gnostic (strong) atheist when it comes to Yahweh for I have knowledge that disproves such entity. I claim Yahweh does not exist.(positive claim)


Some claim:"Atheism is not an affirmative belief that there is no god nor does it answer any other question about what a person believes. "
Some claim:"Atheism is not having knowledge of whether god or gods do not exist but having a belief that there are no god or gods coupled with not claiming that no god or gods do not exist".
Things are nuanced like it is with Christians. The point is to debate the person not straw-mans of concepts.
Enjoy! 8-)
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"Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived."
"God is a insignificant nobody. He is so unimportant that no one would even know he exists if evolution had not made possible for animals capable of abstract thought to exist and invent him"
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Re: To be clear: Atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; it is a lack of belief in gods.

Post #29

Post by historia »

benchwarmer wrote: Sat Jan 22, 2022 8:10 am
historia wrote: Fri Jan 21, 2022 10:29 pm
American Atheists wrote:
Atheism is not an affirmative belief that there is no god nor does it answer any other question about what a person believes. It is simply a rejection of the assertion that there are gods. Atheism is too often defined incorrectly as a belief system. To be clear: Atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; it is a lack of belief in gods.”
Notice that the two bolded sections directly contradict each other. To "disbelieve" is by definition "to withhold or reject belief," so to reject belief in gods is to disbelieve in gods, yet American Atheists affirms the former while denying the latter.
I think you might need to read that definition a bit more carefully.

A "rejection of the assertion" is not the same as a rejection of any god whatsoever.
That strikes me as a distinction without a difference.

If someone said they "simply reject the assertion that vaccines are effective" wouldn't we understand that to mean they disbelieve in the efficacy of vaccines? Or if they "simply reject the assertion that the earth is round" that they disbelieve the earth is a sphere?

It doesn't make sense -- to me anyway -- for someone to say they somehow just reject the assertion itself but do not reject the idea that the assertion is affirming. In normal, every-day language, to reject the former is to reject the latter. To reject the proposition that there are gods is to disbelieve in gods.
benchwarmer wrote: Sat Jan 22, 2022 8:10 am
I usually get this from Christians though. Things like: "You're just mad at God!", "You actually believe God is real deep down, but just want to sin", "You claim their is no God", to the current kerfuffle "You actually have beliefs in gods contrary to what you say".
I'm not sure I follow you here. Where in this thread is Sherlock (or someone else?) telling you what you believe?

What I see is a critique of how the word 'atheism' has been redefined in recent decades.
benchwarmer wrote: Sat Jan 22, 2022 8:10 am
All of the threads in recent memory have been started by THEISTS.
It might be helpful if you linked to the actual threads you have in mind here.

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Re: To be clear: Atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; it is a lack of belief in gods.

Post #30

Post by TRANSPONDER »

historia wrote: Sat Jan 22, 2022 12:56 pm
benchwarmer wrote: Sat Jan 22, 2022 8:10 am
historia wrote: Fri Jan 21, 2022 10:29 pm
American Atheists wrote:
Atheism is not an affirmative belief that there is no god nor does it answer any other question about what a person believes. It is simply a rejection of the assertion that there are gods. Atheism is too often defined incorrectly as a belief system. To be clear: Atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; it is a lack of belief in gods.”
Notice that the two bolded sections directly contradict each other. To "disbelieve" is by definition "to withhold or reject belief," so to reject belief in gods is to disbelieve in gods, yet American Atheists affirms the former while denying the latter.
I think you might need to read that definition a bit more carefully.

A "rejection of the assertion" is not the same as a rejection of any god whatsoever.
That strikes me as a distinction without a difference.

If someone said they "simply reject the assertion that vaccines are effective" wouldn't we understand that to mean they disbelieve in the efficacy of vaccines? Or if they "simply reject the assertion that the earth is round" that they disbelieve the earth is a sphere?

It doesn't make sense -- to me anyway -- for someone to say they somehow just reject the assertion itself but do not reject the idea that the assertion is affirming. In normal, every-day language, to reject the former is to reject the latter. To reject the proposition that there are gods is to disbelieve in gods.
benchwarmer wrote: Sat Jan 22, 2022 8:10 am
I usually get this from Christians though. Things like: "You're just mad at God!", "You actually believe God is real deep down, but just want to sin", "You claim their is no God", to the current kerfuffle "You actually have beliefs in gods contrary to what you say".
I'm not sure I follow you here. Where in this thread is Sherlock (or someone else?) telling you what you believe?

What I see is a critique of how the word 'atheism' has been redefined in recent decades.
benchwarmer wrote: Sat Jan 22, 2022 8:10 am
All of the threads in recent memory have been started by THEISTS.
It might be helpful if you linked to the actual threads you have in mind here.
To take the point aboput a difference without a difference, yes rejecting belief in the claim (efficacy of vaccines or the earth being round) simply rejects the claim (1) that they are effective or round, respectively. It does NOT, by that presentation imply that the possibility of the vaccines being effective or the world being round is rejected or denied, only that the evidence for those claims is not considered persuasive.

It takes a positive denial 'Vaccines are not effective' or 'The world is not round' before the burden of proof switches to those making the assertion.

In fact the earth is Not round - it is pear -shaped, ever since 2019.

(1) on valid or invalid basis - which is something the denier should validate or admit they have no valid basis for their rejection.

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