Tuesday, June 16, 2009

What Atheism Is Not

Sorry, I need to interrupt myself for a moment.

I have recently encountered a large set of articles from people telling the world what an atheist is. What they say is so absurd that it is embarrassing.

An example of what I am referring to can be found at the Daily Kos.

(See Daily Kos: Understanding atheism, the atheist strawman arguments and what atheism isn't.)

The posting begins with an equivocation. It begins with the claim that atheism is not a belief system, which is true enough. However, snkscore then shifts to saying that atheism is not a belief – as if to say that the fact that atheism is not a belief system that it is not a belief. Which makes as much sense as saying that since tigers are not herd animals then they are not animals.

However, the issue that I am referring to is the claim that atheism is not a belief.

So, snkscore states:

So, if someone asked me "Do you believe there is no god?" I would probably simply respond "Yes" but really the correct response to convey my position is "I don't believe that there is a god."

This is false.

In fact, it is such an absurd falsehood that every time I read it or hear it written it embarrasses me – because there are people out in the world who will think that because I call myself an atheist, I, too, must embrace such absurdities.

Here's the proof.

You determine the meaning of a term by looking how native speakers of a language use that term. Competent English speakers do not use the term 'atheist' to refer to cats, rocks, chairs, tomatoes, or any other thing incapable of having beliefs. However, they would certainly accept the proposition that the phrase, "does not believe that there is a God" applies to cats, rocks, chairs, tomatoes, or any other thing incapable of having beliefs.

The claim that the latter is a meaningful substitute for the former is even more absurd than claiming that the earth is 6,000 years old. At least the counter-argument that the earth is 6,000 years old takes more than a paragraph to write.

The fact that I have seen so many atheists embrace this absurdity in spite of the fact that it is so easily shown to be false is one of the reasons why I hold that atheists are just as capable of ignoring evidence when it flies in the face of a favored proposition as any theist.

What is an atheist?

An atheist is someone who, if asked whether the proposition, "At least one God exists" is true or false, would confidently answer that it is false.

No cat, rock, chair, or tomato would do such a thing.

If a person, when asked whether the proposition, "At last one God exists" is true or false, merely stands there and drools, he may well lack a belief in God, but he is not an atheist. An atheist confidently assigns the value 'False' to the proposition..

An atheist does NOT assign the value 'False' with absolute certainty. An atheist can hold that there is some measure of doubt as to whether the proposition is true or false. However, he does not hold that this ‘doubt’ makes it a coin toss.

However, an atheist is assigning a value to a proposition and, as such, needs to justify why he assigns that value and not some other, and why he assigns the value confidently rather than uncertainly.

The reason why atheists seem to like the absurdity of "has no belief in God" is because it gives them a way to bypass this second step. It is absurd to ask an entity that lacks a belief in God to justify its state. Try it. Walk up to the nearest inanimate object and demand that it justify to you its lack of a belief in God.

If it answers, go see a doctor.

However, once the atheist admits that an atheist actually assigns a truth value to a proposition, he can't be lazy any more. Since he is actively assigning a value to a proposition, he needs to justify that assignment.

It's just so much easier to be lazy.

What really happens is that this absurdity that atheism refers to the lack of a belief in a God actually does little more than to demonstrate that atheists lack certain key mental faculties that make them blind to what is obvious. If the atheist can be so blind to something so obvious, then it is no wonder that he is also blind to the evidence for the existence of God.

To make matters worse is that this absurdity comes from people who claim that it is a virtue to embrace reason – yet who, in practice, simply ignores an argument that so clearly demonstrates that a favored proposition is false.

This mind-numbing absurdity is only convincing to people who start with a desire to embrace this mind-numbing absurdity. To the rest of the English speaking population, it is just another demonstration of the intellectual incompetence of atheists.

42 comments:

SpiderBrigade said...

Your argument is well-constructed and correct as usual.

However I think I can explain somewhat better than "laziness" why you see so many atheists making the "I don't believe there is" vs "I believe there isn't" distinction. It has to do with the difference between everyday language and technical or "correct" logical/philosophical language, as well as the moves made by theist debaters.

Theists often bring the following argument to the table: "I believe there is a God, you believe there isn't one. Our beliefs are equivalent, therefore how can you say you are right and I am wrong? Isn't your atheism just as dogmatic as my religion?" In other words they are using a definition of "belief" which connotes lack of evidence, or refers to something taken on faith. You see the same accusation made that biologists "believe" in evolution (with the suggestion that therefore evolution is a religion).

So, many atheists feel (rightly) that this is a completely bogus argument, but as you say they either don't know the right way to counter it or are too lazy to do the logical/rhetorical work to counter it properly. The easy response is to accept the proposed definition/connotation of "belief" and insist that the atheist's position on the existence of God doesn't fit that definition (which it doesnt, as it is supported by argument and evidence rather than taken on faith).

However, again you are correct that in any rational context this definition of belief makes no sense, so the atheist is guilty of absurdity by accepting it.

The other angle which helps explain why some atheists do this is that they wish to avoid the stigma of being ANTIreligious rather than non-religious, or to emphasize that they do not claim absolute certainty. This is the same urge that makes atheists claim to be agnostic instead. However as you point out this leads them into making nonsensical statements. One of these is that realistically, any atheist believes that theist statements are incorrect, and is therefore "against" those who make them.

I'd be interested to know what you think are particularly effective tactics to use against this common "My belief in God and your belief in no God are equivalent" gambit.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

Well, I'm afraid that I am not much into tactics. I am more into what is accurate.

Though I would say, as I argued above, a defense that is based on an easily disproved and absurd sounding falsehood lacks a certain amount of tactical finesse.

But, my argument is . . .

Take a super deck of cards with a million suits and a million and three cards in each suit.

Have somebody draw a card at random.

Person 1, "The subject drew the king of hearts."

Person 2, "The subject almost certainly did not draw the king of hearts."

Does it make any sense to say that these beliefs are equivalent?

Kip said...

You are describing "strong atheism". The truth is more nuanced than you make it out to be: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atheism

What label do you apply to the 5 yr old raised in a secular house that doesn't know what "God" means?

If you ask this 5 yr old: "Is the proposition, 'At least one God exists' true or false?" They probably respond "I don't know."

If the only options are "strong theism", "strong atheism", or "agnosticism", then I'd bet most everyone would be "agnostic".

An atheist is a person (which excludes non-thinking things, by the way), that does not believe a god exists. I'd say this 5yr old is an atheist ("implicit, weak atheist"), even though she can't answer the question.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

A brain-dead person laying in a hospital would also be an 'atheist' on your definition. Yet, native English speakers would consider this application to be absurd. Calling such a person an atheist implies that he has gone through some sort of conversion and abandoned his previous beliefs. Competent speakers do not attribute atheism to a person simply because his brain ceases to function.

If I attributed 'atheism' to the 5 year old child it would be in a sense that meant, 'A young child being raised in an atheist household.' This is a common say of using terms like 'atheist' or 'Christian' or 'Muslem' - a second definition of the term that has no real bearing on the subject under discussion.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

As a follow-up to my previous comment, it would be a useful PR gimmick to write about all of the religious leaders who “converted to atheism” on their death bed as Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases destroyed their ability to have a belief that a God exists.

However, this is just another simple illustration of the absurdity of the view that atheism is the lack of a belief in a God.

Kip said...

A person who becomes brain-dead, is no longer a person.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

Take any instance where a person has suffered sufficient brain damage where that individual can no longer be said to have any beliefs about God.

Do competent English speakers equate this as a conversion to atheism?

Kip said...

A person who did believe in God ("theist"), who then becomes a person who does not believe in God, becomes an "atheist".

You obviously want "atheism" to mean only "strong atheism". Most non-theist, non-strong-atheists to not use the term that way. There is "implicit atheism" and "explicit atheism" - "strong atheism" & "weak atheism" - "strong agnosticism" & "weak agnosticism". Personally, I find the labels to be a distraction from more important issues.

Just like lots of words in the English language, "atheism" has multiple definitions, and is used in multiple ways by different people.

I am shocked that you seem to put so much emotional energy into this argument, when you wisely avoid such argument when it comes to various moral terms. You tell me what you mean by "atheism", and then I can tell you whether I am "atheist" or not. That's the best way to handle this.

You can also point people to Wikipedia to get a good grasp of the various ways people use the term.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

Kip wrote, "You obviously want "atheism" to mean only "strong atheism"."

What I wish is not relevant. Competent English speakers do not recognize such a distinction. It is a trivial distinction introduced among a few atheists engaged in a private (and substantially separate) conversation that serves no general purpose.

Kip also wrote, "I am shocked that you seem to put so much emotional energy into this argument, when you wisely avoid such argument when it comes to various moral terms."

I see the two cases as being different. In the case of "atheism", I see atheists taking claims made by other people, changing the definitions of the term, and then criticizing those people (often in a demeaning and condescending manner) on the basis of definitions that the atheist invented.

In the morals case, I am addressing the argument, "prove to me that your definition is the correct definition." To this I answer that there are no correct definitions. I can take whatever definitions any person offers and translate desire utilitarianism into that language.

Earthling said...

I've been asked before about me being an atheist-- and when I am I am usually asked "Are you absolutely certain there is no god?" I always reply, "No, but I am reasonably certain-- and that is adequate."

There is, perhaps aside from mathematics, no such thing as "absolute certainty." Anyone that believes in that absolute certainty (whether they are a believer or otherwise) is kidding themselves.

One can either be reasonably certain, or "unreasonably certain" (or, conversely, reasonably uncertain or unreasonably uncertain!). I find reason a handy tool. It works.

Kip said...

Okay, how about I try to answer your question:

Alonzo: Is "At least one God exists" true or false?

I've heard definitions of "God" that I think makes that statement true, and other definitions that make it false.

So, am I an atheist?

Kip said...

Alonzo> Kip wrote, "You obviously want "atheism" to mean only "strong atheism"."
Alonzo>Competent English speakers do not recognize such a distinction. It is a trivial distinction introduced among a few atheists engaged in a private (and substantially separate) conversation that serves no general purpose.

I'm pretty sure you're wrong, here. I think most atheists use the term "atheist" to mean someone who does not believe that a god exists. In other words, they include both "strong" and "weak" versions of the term to be "atheist".

More info:
http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/mathew/sn-definitions.html

http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/mathew/intro.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atheism

http://www.religioustolerance.org/atheist4.htm

http://skepdic.com/atheism.html

http://atheism.about.com/od/definitionofatheism/a/definition.htm

http://atheism.about.com/od/definitionofatheism/p/overview.htm

I see no point in arguing about a definition. The term is clearly used in different ways, and for some reason you want to say people not using it the way you want to use it are wrong. I think that makes you wrong, actually. But, whatever.

Phoesune said...

Atheist by its root and historical usage represents a stance on the existence of god. The question that is asked is not one of belief. The question is as follows:
"Is there a god?" People take stances of many types to the question. If you propose there is a god and take this as your default position then you are saying the world/universe has a god. The universe is theistic.

If you take the default position that there is no god then you are stating that the universe is without a god or atheistic in nature. The people that side with these stances are theists and atheists respectively. So in this classical understanding of the term an atheist is only someone that takes a stance on the existence of god.

An agnostic is someone that cannot or will not take a stance on either side. They have no default position and could easily accept either or neither position.

Many have begun using the term (myself at one point included) as a part of a dichotomy of belief, instead of being an adherent to a one of the models of existence.

Theism and atheism have nothing to do with belief. I will give you an example to demonstrate my point and hopefully make it clear.

Let us take a physicist and she is working through some string theory equations and in a moment of brilliance (moments of brilliance always take years to develop...) she mathematically proves the existence of god and has someone in the field perform some measurements and they confirm her equations. She has thus proven the existence of god. At this point she knows that the universe is theistic. Yet she does not have to believe it. In fact for this thought experiment she does not believe it. She will doubt the existence of god the rest of her days, and she will die a theist, a gnostic, and a non believer.

Perhaps, non believer is the right answer we are looking for. I am an atheist by every definition we have used. My concern is that the term itself will end up as ambiguous as someone saying they are a christian.

So I agree that being an atheist in the traditional sense is a positive stance toward the statement that there is not a god. Atheist is a not about whether the person is without a god, but whether the universe is without a god. Toward that stance, you are believer, a non believer, or incredulous. if you believe the universe is without a god you are an atheist.

A weird way to put it is that a theist is a non believer that the universe does not have god. So what if we have a belief. At least our belief survives a shave from Ockham's razor...

Kip said...

I'm posting more links from prominent atheist websites to disprove Alonzo's claim that "Competent English speakers do not recognize such a distinction. It is a trivial distinction introduced among a few atheists engaged in a private (and substantially separate) conversation that serves no general purpose."

My guess, based on my own experiences, is that the majority of atheists use the definition of "atheism" that includes "weak atheism". Perhaps a poll is in order?

http://www.rationalresponders.com/am_i_agnostic_or_atheist

http://www.positiveatheism.org/faq/faq1111.htm

http://www.atheistsunited.org/about-atheists-united/faqs#How%20does%20AU%20define%20%E2%80%9CAtheism?%E2%80%9D

http://freethoughtpedia.com/wiki/Atheism

http://www.thinkatheist.com/notes/Definition_of_atheism

http://www.positiveatheism.org/writ/smithdef.htm:

"Prominent atheists have defended for many years the view that an atheist is a person who lacks theistic belief. Baron d'Holbach took this view when he argued, "All children are atheists -- they have no idea of God"[1] Charles Bradlaugh, Britain's most important crusader for atheism, upheld a similar position, noting that "no position is more continuously misrepresented" than atheism. Bradlaugh stated: "Atheism is without God. It does not assert no God."[2]"

Alonzo Fyfe said...

Kip:

Your evidence does not support the conclusion you want it to. All you are doing is providing examples of prominent atheists who commit the fallacy of taking the claims of others, twisting the meanings of terms to their own advantage, and using those distortions to criticize other.

The fact that this is a widespread practice among athiests does not justify it.

I am fully aware of how widespread this pracice is - which is why made the effort to write a post against it. I think you for providing examples of atheists using this fallacious rhetorical technique, but it does not justify the use of that technique.

What you need to do to refute my thesis is to show that the common person on the street - the general public - the average reader of any tract in which these terms are used - habitually uses these terms in the way described.

And that is simply not true.

The common meaning of the term 'atheist', outside of a subculture of atheists themselves, is a person who confidently assigns the value of 'false' to the proposition 'at least one God exists'. This is the best theory for explaining and predicting how people outside of a linguistically isolated atheist subculture uses the term.

Taking the definitions within this small atheist subculture and saying that everybody uses the term in this way is simply and demonstrably false.

Eneasz said...

SpiderBrigade -

I'd be interested to know what you think are particularly effective tactics to use against this common "My belief in God and your belief in no God are equivalent" gambit.

I would recommend this article on Evidence-based faith vs Evidence-free faith It's quite good, containing gems as "If it were really true that evidence-based faith were no better than evidence-free faith, apologetics would be a complete waste of time"

Kip -

We all know polls establish nothing. PZ should have demonstrated that well enough by now.

Dean said...

Regardless of whether you are using proper rhetoric it is still certain that it is impossible to prove or disprove either side of the argument. If you believe that there is no god then you are correct, if you believe there is a god then you are also correct. If you try to say anything about either side being incorrect then that makes your own opinion wrong by default also. If you accept both sides as being correct then you are left with nothing. This argument in general is quite honestly nothing because it goes nowhere. Interesting topic...yes. Debatable topic...yes. Provable topic...no. God has nothing to do with ethics, if you say that god or faith has anything to do with ethics then you are studying faith and not ethics. Religion and Ethics are two very different subjects so keep them separate and you then you have yourself a true argument. Alonzo you identified the invalidity of the argument of the accuser before you explained why it was invalid. That is counter intuitive to someone who explicitly provides information of being an atheist before beginning an argument. Obviously we see that you are atheist, so it makes your stand less believable when you take your own side. Sometimes playing "Devil's Advocate" better suits a person when their poker hand is shown to the entire table.

Eneasz said...

Dean -

God has nothing to do with ethics.

This is a point Alonzo makes very frequently.

If you believe that there is no god then you are correct, if you believe there is a god then you are also correct.

Is this solipsism? Or just insanity? At the very least you are using words in a way that no one else uses them, and you should specify which ones are being used in a non-standard way. Otherwise you're just contradicting yourself. Or falling into the trap of The Loser's Compromise

Robin Lionheart said...

Competent English speakers do not use the term 'atheist' to refer to cats, rocks, chairs, tomatoes, or any other thing incapable of having beliefs.

I don't use the term "atheist" to mean "something that has no belief in a god or gods", I use it to mean "someone that has no belief in a god or gods".

Your argument about inanimate objects is a red herring.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

Robin Lionheart wrote:

"I don't use the term "atheist" to mean "something that has no belief in a god or gods", I use it to mean "someone that has no belief in a god or gods".

This shift from "some thing" to "some one" is an entirely groundless contrivance.

When I added the word "generally" to my definition of a good desire (a maleable desire that generally fulfills other desires), I am able to explain and justify the addition. It is justified on the grounds that desires are persistent entities and it is not possible to turn desires on and off in specific instances.

And, I can explain why I added the word 'maleable' - because it is impractical to employ social forces to alter desires through praise and condemnation unless they are alterable.

What justification can you give for limiting this definition to "someone" other than "something?"

Furthermore, it is still easily and demonstrably false that this is what (almost) everybody else means when they use the term - that this is the definition of the term in public uses.

As I said in the posting, we justify claims about what terms mean in public usage by showing that a particular theory best explains and predicts the way people generally use the term. If your definition were the definition of public usage, then people would commonly and without hesitatin apply the term 'atheist' to newborn infants and those people so mentally disabled that they cannot form a belief about God.

That is simply not how the term is used. Straightforward observations about how people use the term contradict the predictions that this theory gives us . . . which means that it is time to abandon that theory in favor of another theory that best explains and predicts those observations.

What is that better theory?

An atheist is a person who would confidently state that the proposition 'At least one God exists' is false.

Now we have a reason for the 'something versus someone' distinction. We can explain that prediction and predict that people will use the term in a way consistent with that definition. It is because it takes a certain minimum degree of mental competence to assign the value of 'almost certainly false' to the proposition 'at least one God exists'.

Besides . . . your definition . . . simply puts atheists in the category of newborn infants and severely mentally disabled adults - those are the types of people who 'have no belief in a god or gods'.

You may, if you want, invent your own private langauge in which you define terms however pleases you.

However, it is a mistake - and it is morally objectionable - to insist that other people are also using your own private definition when they use the term 'atheist' and to criticize your statement because, when you switch out their definitions for those of your private language, their sentences make no sense.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

Oh, and I want to add . . .

This definition of an 'atheist' as 'someone who would confidently assign the value of 'false' to the proposition 'at least one God exists' . . . .

*waves hand*

That's me. Over here. I fit that definition. I am an atheist.

I am not going to hide behind contrivances such as 'lacking a belief in God'.

That's the type of entity people are generally talking about when they use the term 'atheist', and I fit that description.

So do . . . I would wager . . . the vast majority of those people who call themselves atheists and make the absurd claim that this means the absence of abelief in God. They, too, if they were honest with themselves, are people who confidently assign the value 'false' to the proposition 'at least one God exists'.

And it is THIS quality - not some 'lack of a belief' - that qualifies them as atheists in the public mind as well.

Kip said...

Alonzo:

1) I was refuting your claim: ""Competent English speakers do not recognize such a distinction. It is a trivial distinction introduced among a few atheists engaged in a private (and substantially separate) conversation that serves no general purpose."

That's false. Most atheists seem to use the term this way.

2) I agree that most of the general population use the "strict atheism" definition of the term. Of course, most of them are theists, so that's to be expected.

3) I really don't see very many "prominent atheists who commit the fallacy of taking the claims of others, twisting the meanings of terms to their own advantage, and using those distortions to criticize other." I guess there is a subset of atheists who do that, but not many from what I've seen.

Kip said...

Alonzo, you didn't respond to this:

Okay, how about I try to answer your question:

Alonzo: Is "At least one God exists" true or false?

I've heard definitions of "God" that I think makes that statement true, and other definitions that make it false.

So, am I an atheist?

Eneasz said...

If you ask someone to define "God" in any way they like, you can then say you are atheistic or theistic about that "God". But if you are simply using the word "God" the same way that almost everyone does in day-to-day usage, then I'm assuming you are an atheist.

This is the problem the post is addressing. You CAN go out of your way to redefine things in any way you want for a certain conversation. But to then claim that this is what the word REALLY means, and everyone should adopt your new definition, is silly.

And really, we already have a word that means "lacking a belief" in popular use - agnostic. Why try to conflate the two? (and yes, I know it means "without knowledge" and the claims you can be an agnostic atheist or thesit, etc etc. We're talking about usage tho, not etymology.)

Alonzo Fyfe said...

Kip wrote: "I've heard definitions of "God" that I think makes that statement true, and other definitions that make it false. So, am I an atheist?"

For purposes of this post I will define 2 to represent the diameter of a circle divided by its diameter.

You have now seen a definition of 2 in which '2 > 3' is a true statement.

Yet, I do not expect you to get confused the next time you balance your checkbook. You will be able to figure out by the context which definition of '2' is relevant in that situation.

Similarly, you may have heard a variety of definitions of 'God', but I do not expect you to be confused when asked in the vast majority of decisions whether you hold that the proposition 'at least one God exists' is true or false what the speaker specifically means by that term - and to give an appropriate answer to that question.

When this question is asked among English speakers you (and I) can usually expect that the speaker is asking about some sort of supernatural, omnipotent creator of the universe and can answer without confusion.

There is no reason to start to pretend that the question generates confusion now.

You also wrote: "1) I was refuting your claim: 'Competent English speakers do not recognize such a distinction. It is a trivial distinction introduced among a few atheists engaged in a private (and substantially separate) conversation that serves no general purpose.'"

No. You have a self-selected sample. The vast majority of atheists, I would wager, has never even heard of this 'lacks a belief in God' claim let alone embrace it, and can still be observed using the term in a 'holds that the proposition 'at least one God exists' is almost certainly false' sense in their day-to-day conversations.

It has become a fad among certain blog posters and activist atheists to use this 'lacks a belief in God' sense. However, they are not a representative sample of English speakers. Even the set of all atheists is not a representative sample of English speakers.

And I can add, the title of this blog does NOT mean, "An ethicist who lacks a belief in God". It does not mean that today. It did not mean that when I wrote it, and it does not mean that to the vast majority of English speakers who might be shown the title the street.

It means, "An ethicist who is confident that the proposition 'at least one God exists' is almost certainly false."

Kip said...

Eneasz: I agree, mostly. The problem is that I don't think there is a strong consensus regarding the word "agnostic".

Regarding "God Belief", most of us are agnostic -- we aren't sure whether the statement "a god exists" is true or false. I think it's probably false, but am much less certain of that than I am with other propositions (such as "I exist"). So, maybe I'm 95% atheist or something?

On another note, why do theists get to decide how atheists use the term that describes atheists? Since they are the majority? The fact is that different groups use the term differently. This is no different than other words that are used within sub-groups (e.g. "queer", "nigger").

And finally, who cares? Use whatever word you want. I disagree (again) with Alonzo that this issue is significantly different than his not caring what definitions of moral terms people use. Is DU "moral relativism", or "moral subjectivism", or "moral objectivism"? Who cares... this is a distraction. Talk about the idea, and use whatever words you want.

Kip said...

Alonzo> "No. You have a self-selected sample. The vast majority of atheists, I would wager, has never even heard of this 'lacks a belief in God' claim let alone embrace it, and can still be observed using the term in a 'holds that the proposition 'at least one God exists' is almost certainly false' sense in their day-to-day conversations."

I disagree. I've given you some proof from prominent atheist websites. Where is your proof?

Anonymous said...

Kip said: You obviously want "atheism" to mean only "strong atheism". Most non-theist, non-strong-atheists to not use the term that way. There is "implicit atheism" and "explicit atheism" - "strong atheism" & "weak atheism" - "strong agnosticism" & "weak agnosticism". Personally, I find the labels to be a distraction from more important issues.


Kip - as a Buddhist who is non-theistic (not atheist, not theist), I want you to stop telling me what I am or think based on your decision to make all non-theism = atheism

"Choosing to not think about, and not want involvement in an infinitely non-provable debate that only detracts from self-enlightenment, and not wanting to be defined in either camp" is also a form of non-theism. But it isn't atheism.

I've had atheists tell me that if I'm not a theistic Buddhist, I'm an atheist. Total Rubbish.

The entire definition to include "lack of belief" is absurd equivocation by atheists, is irrational, and fails prepositional and propositional logic.

Kip said...

Anonymous> "Kip - as a Buddhist who is non-theistic (not atheist, not theist), I want you to stop telling me what I am or think based on your decision to make all non-theism = atheism

I'm not telling you what you are. You can call yourself whatever you want. I don't give a shit.

Now, according to Alonzo, we ask you this question: is the proposition, "At least one God exists" true or false?

I await your answer.

Kip said...

Alonzo:

Are "atheist" & "theist" mutually exclusive, and jointly exhaustive? Or do you allow for "non-theist", and "agnostic", and "apatheist"?

You say: "An atheist is someone who, if asked whether the proposition, "At least one God exists" is true or false, would confidently answer that it is false."

I suppose you would say "A theist is someone who, if asked whether the proposition, "At least one God exists" is true or false, would confidently answer that it is true."

How do you say an "agnostic" or a "non-theist" or an "apatheist" would answer the question?

Anonymous said...

Kip said:
"Now, according to Alonzo, we ask you this question: is the proposition, "At least one God exists" true or false?"

That isn't a 'lack of belief'. Which to ascertain if I were truly an atheist or a theist.

which isn't the same as non-theism, agnosticism or even apatheism.

which really is the point that defining atheism as a 'lack of belief' is totally absurd.

Kip said...

Anonymous, please answer this question:

Is the proposition, "At least one God exists" true or false?"

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

kip asked:
Is the proposition, "At least one God exists" true or false?"

And doesn't understand he just affirmed the entire point behind Alonzo's blog post that atheism is a 'belief system'; because it requires one to rationalize a philosophical position, and the entire preposition that atheism is simply "lack of belief" is not only illogical, but absurd.

/The Buddhist stands at the sidelines saying "does it matter?" while Kip hopefully attains some enlightenment.

atheism is a metaphysical philosophical position.

faithlessgod said...

The standard grammatical technique of "raising" implies

"I don't believe the mail has arrived" means "I believe the mail has not arrived". It does not mean that I don't have any beliefs about the mail arriving.

to

"I don't believe in the existence of deities" means "I believe that deities do not exist". It does not mean that I don't have any beliefs about the existence of deities.

I look at this operationally, an atheist is someone who thinks god is irrelevant or to expand, expand, an atheist is some who does not employ the premise "god exists" in any of their reasoning or actions. This can only apply to a person who could think it relevant. This leads to the same position on belief as Alonzo's. I think leaving the conversation over belief is granting too much to theists.

For more see Atheism and Ideology

Kip said...

Anonymous said...

kip asked:
Is the proposition, "At least one God exists" true or false?"

And doesn't understand he just affirmed the entire point behind Alonzo's blog post that atheism is a 'belief system';

-------------------

I don't think Alonzo thinks atheism is a belief system. And you didn't answer the question. I wonder why that is?

Anonymous said...

Kip asked:
"I don't think Alonzo thinks atheism is a belief system. And you didn't answer the question. I wonder why that is?"

Because it's pointless?

Concerning yourself one way or another does not affect the outcome but does interfere with any a non-theistic ethical discipline. And the argument is unprovable either way.

From a non-theistic standpoint, if it were possible to prove that God exists, your beliefs and behavior would not change.

Similarly, there would be no change if someone proved that God does not exist.

All the never ending debate does is interfere with your personal enlightenment. So non-theism and apatheism are not the same as atheism. Some aspects are similar, but not all.

Some Buddhists are atheistic, some are theistic, some are literally "neither".

Lack of belief is not atheism. Denial or disbelief is atheism.

Atheism and theism are metaphysical philosophical positions.

And when atheists dishonestly or irrationally and illogically extend their definition to include 'lack of belief', their arguments become irrational and illogical under prepositional logic (as noted in examples above by others) and propositional logic (citing equivalence where there really isn't any).

Kip said...

Disagreed. Since you won't answer the question, I have nothing else to say to you.

Anonymous said...

Kip said:

"Disagreed. Since you won't answer the question, I have nothing else to say to you."

Well Kip, since you insist I affirm a positive or negative belief to assess if I'm an atheist, I just wanted to thank you for proving the point that "lack of belief" is as meaningless as asking a rock or baby if they're an atheist.

/neither has the capability to make a decision about a metaphysical philosophical position.

And, choosing to ignore it isn't atheism either.

Guess I have nothing further to say to you either.

spuddy said...

Of course, it is obvious that you determine the meaning of a term by looking how native speakers of a language use that term. And in my experience many people do take "atheism" to mean "strong atheism" -- it is false that at least one god exists.

However, I don't think we can go as far as saying that snkscore's definition is absurd. Austin Cline at atheism.about.com gives some examples of the original uses of "atheism" which definitely seem to line up with snkscore's definition.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

Spuddy

Thank you for the link. I find it interesting that the atheist tactic of scoring rhetorical points by distorting the definition of the term 'atheist' has such a long history.

But that still is all that is going on. It is still the case that all but a small subculture of the english speakers read the term 'atheist' to mean 'one who holds that the proposition 'at least one God exists' is (almost) certainly false'.

It is still the case that taking statements from people who use this definition, change the definition, and then criticize those statements based on the distorted interpretation, is objectionable.

Jynx said...

Alonzo said:
"You determine the meaning of a term by looking how native speakers of a language use that term. Competent English speakers do not use the term 'atheist' to refer to cats, rocks, chairs, tomatoes, or any other thing incapable of having beliefs.
However, they would certainly accept the proposition that the phrase, "does not believe that there is a God" applies to cats, rocks, chairs, tomatoes, or any other thing incapable of having beliefs. "


I just don't see a problem here. People use terms like "flirtatious", "evil" and "stoic" in reference to inanimate objects when describing them, although it is technically invalid to do so. Furthermore, what
if enough atheists who speak publicly about their viewpoints on religion manage to convince those people who do use the term "atheism" like you do to adopt their definition? At that point the "general public" will explicitly use the term in the same way that prominent atheist thinkers/writers do such as George H. Smith. If this occurs it will happen over time. At what point would you consider it rational to utilize "atheism" as people like George H. Smith do?

Even the Catholic Encyclopedia contains within it multiple definitions of the word, "atheist". One of which states: "A second form in which atheism may be held and taught, as indeed it has been, is based either upon the lack of physical data for theism or upon the limited nature of the intelligence of man. " It further states that according to this form of atheism: "no positive assertion or denial is made as to the ultimate fact of His being. "

The Cambridge Companion to Atheism talks about its definition on pages 28-29 and mentions that there will be : "as many varieties of atheism as there are varieties of theism." Does that mean the scholars responsible for this book are all practising absurdity, illogic and guilty of ignoring evidence?





"What you need to do to refute my thesis is to show that the common person on the street - the general public - the average reader of any tract in which these terms are used - habitually uses these terms in the way described.

And that is simply not true."



The general public uses the term "theory" to mean something like a guess. This problem is apparent in the continuous and exhausting efforts by atheists to explain why evolution being "just a theory" is not a mark against it. Does that mean that scientists are incorrect and absurd and illogical when they use it to mean something different? If not, why not?

If you mean to say the average reader of any tract in which the use of the term "theory" is applied in the way scientists use the term (like a scientific journal) , I could just as easily say that the average reader of atheistic literature does use the term habitually to mean "without a belief in a god or gods". As you have observed, clearly the use of this form of the definition is widespread and common with popular atheist authors.



Alonzo said:
"An atheist is someone who, if asked whether the proposition, "At least one God exists" is true or false, would confidently answer that it is false."

Where does one with the viewpoint of theological non-cognitivism fit in? I don't see how it is valid to describe someone who sees the term "god" as being meaningless gibberish as being able to "answer confidently" that the above mentioned proposition is false.

If someone asked you whether, "Greeblefroks exist - true or false?" would you confidently answer false?


This just seems silly to me.

Jynx said...

Sorry about the double post, I just realized there was an issue I forgot to address in my initial post above.


Alonzo said:
"What you need to do to refute my thesis is to show that the common person on the street - the general public - the average reader of any tract in which these terms are used - habitually uses these terms in the way described.

And that is simply not true."


Before any of my above objections can even be addressed, It seems clear to me that you must substantiate this claim. What research did you perform before typing the words, "simply not true"? I am honestly not convinced it is true and considering the measure of references both Kip and I have posted (plus several dictionaries I could post to further back up my position) it seems to me your position is nothing more than a blind assertion.

Again, sorry about the double post, I meant to put this in the beginning of my above post but was distracted...