Atheism By Definition
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02-12-2012, 12:27 AM
Atheism By Definition
Webster's dictionary defines Atheism thusly:

a: a disbelief in the existence of deity

b: the doctrine that there is no deity

In other sources, it is defined as:

one who believes that there is no deity

Like some of you here, I'm often confronted with the argument that Atheism is some sort of claim, or that it is "false" - something that applies only to assertions - and in return, I state that it is nothing more than a "lack of belief". But my opponents will often go grab their dictionary or google the definition and come back with the definitions listed above - thus "proving" that Atheism is a positive stance that there is no God, rather than a simple lack of belief.

As of recently, this has been troubling me deeply. I know that I simply lack a belief in God, and that this lack of belief is generally labeled "Atheism". But now, definitions to the contrary are being thrown at me, and I'm losing confidence in my counter-argument that Atheism is not a claim; is not a doctrine; but is simply a "lack of belief in God(s)". Now of course, the first part of the definition is "a disbelief in the existence of a deity". That's all well and fine. But then it goes on to imply that Atheism is more than a simple disbelief; but an assertion. A positive stance. The theists seem to focus on these portions of the definition, which is a blatant act of cherry-picking - ignoring the portion regarding "disbelief". But then, is that not the portion that we tend to focus on, while ignoring the portion about "doctrines" and positive beliefs that there is no God? Who is cherry-picking: them or us? Both? I'm quite troubled by this.

So, I can't believe I'm asking this, but what is it? What the fuck is Atheism?

(If my fingers could choke on words, they would have struggled to type the latter portion of this post)

Through profound pain comes profound knowledge.
Ridi, Pagliaccio, sul tuo amore infranto! Ridi del duol, che t'avvelena il cor!
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02-12-2012, 02:12 AM (This post was last modified: 02-12-2012 02:18 AM by DLJ.)
RE: Atheism By Definition
a-the-is-m

a = non
the = definite article
is = exist
m = masculine

atheism = men definitely do not exist.

Next question.

ps It's just entrapment. Ask them for a definition of 'god'

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02-12-2012, 02:39 AM (This post was last modified: 02-12-2012 10:13 AM by Vosur.)
RE: Atheism By Definition
Atheism comes from the greek word ἄθεος (atheos).

a - without
theos - god

That's as close to the original meaning as you can get. Drinking Beverage

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02-12-2012, 06:38 AM
RE: Atheism By Definition
Perhaps you should make a positive claim on an AK-47... Consider

For many, communication is all about "me telling you what's what." People that don't take the time to understand your position usually ain't worth the time it takes to communicate any position - well, other than "talk to the. hand, FaithBoy."

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02-12-2012, 07:36 AM
RE: Atheism By Definition
It seems like a lot of semantic hair splitting to me. Once you get into justification by dictionary definitions, you have to examine all of the words used [definitions from Oxford Dictionaries]:

LACK :
- The state of being without or not having enough of something.

BELIEF :
- An acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists
- A firmly held opinion or conviction

GOD :
- The creator and ruler of the universe and source of all moral authority; the supreme being.

So the phrase "Lack of belief in God" can mean anything from "not accepting that a supreme being exists" to "not having a firmly held opinion on the source of all moral authority", and any number of mix-and-match definitions in between.

I'd say you just have to accept that the definition of Atheist is quite large; ranging from your stated position of a lack of belief, to an outright assertion that God does not exist. At what point does a lack of belief become so firm that you cross the line into asserting that something is not true anyway ?

Why does it trouble you that a theist states that Atheism is an assertion that God does not exist ?
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02-12-2012, 07:45 AM (This post was last modified: 02-12-2012 07:54 AM by Ghost.)
RE: Atheism By Definition
Hey, Misanthrope.

All of the dictionaries are right. That being said, English dictionaries aren't prescriptions, they're observations. They catalog how people use words. So ignore anyone who says that a dictionary definition is the final arbiter of truth because these credulous people don't have a clue what they're talking about.

Atheism in it's purest form is, as you believe, a lack of belief in theos. That being said, many Atheists take the position that there is no God but when they do, they self-identify as Atheists. Thus confusion. There is no word for someone who believes there is no God. Some have suggested that Anti-Theist is that word, but it's use is not at all widespread. So because of lazyness on everyone's part, the same word is used in both cases. So if you simply lack belief and someone accuses you of believing there is no God, explain to them that while there are Atheists that take that position, you are not one of them. It's like Muslims who have to explain, "Actually, I'm not a terrorist bent on exterminating the infidel in a God-decreed Jihad, I'm a florist from Michigan."

The only attempt at clarification has been the Strong Atheist/Weak Atheist distinction which makes the distinction explicit; however, it's not used in common parlance so the confusion remains.

At the end of the day, just know what you self-identify as and be true to that (like how I'm true to my self-identification as an Agnostic) but be aware of why people misunderstand. From there you can decide whether to show patience and help them to understand, or whether you're gonna go ballistic on they ass. Both Gandhi and myself suggest the former.

ON EDIT: Hey, Idle.

I agree, the definition is actually broad, but I think the real Rubicon is the difference between, "I don't share your belief," and, "You are wrong." If someone goes around saying they don't share my belief, like, say, gay men who don't share my attraction to women, I don't have any real right to take issue. If someone goes around saying that I'm full of shit, well, then the gloves come off. I have every right to defend myself; although it's always wonky to ask someone to defend themselves. So if I'm speaking about the people who tell me I'm wrong, I need to have a term and the only real term available at the moment is Atheist. So those Atheists that simply lack belief are caught in the crossfire.

Then there are those Atheists that defend the "lack of belief" definition, but say that God doesn't exist in the same breath. I like to call them Cakeandeatit Atheists Cool

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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02-12-2012, 08:15 AM
RE: Atheism By Definition
I found a duffle bag last night and it was full of money. $100, 000. I didn't know what to do with it so I left it on my front porch and sent a text to10 friends for one of them to pick it up, store it someplace safe and to only reveal the location to someone who hands you $127.65 cents exactly. I checked the porch in the morning and the duffle bag was gone.

Do you believe that I found it$100, 000 ?
If you don't, then you lack the belief that this story is true.
If you do believe the story is true without any other evidence then you should be able to approach each friend of mine on this list, give them the exact amount of money and if you're lucky it won't cost you very much to find out the location of the bag with $100, 000 in it.

So do you take this on faith or are you going to use critical thinking skills ?

How much money has the church gotten from you ?

My new definition of atheism is similar to this proverb - "a wise man and his money are seldom parted"

Insanity - doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results
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02-12-2012, 08:18 AM
RE: Atheism By Definition
That's the problem with those who rely on a strict definition from a dictionary. I don't know if I can actually agree with the specific definition OF the word. I think it is a bit disingenuous to JUST say "a lack of a belief in a deity". That doesn't explain WHY. What SHOULD be added in there is. . . . "...due to the lack of compelling or credible evidence from those who make claims that a deity exists." Without that part, it ONLY sounds like a "faith claim".
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02-12-2012, 08:43 AM
RE: Atheism By Definition
(02-12-2012 08:18 AM)DeavonReye Wrote:  That's the problem with those who rely on a strict definition from a dictionary. I don't know if I can actually agree with the specific definition OF the word. I think it is a bit disingenuous to JUST say "a lack of a belief in a deity". That doesn't explain WHY. What SHOULD be added in there is. . . . "...due to the lack of compelling or credible evidence from those who make claims that a deity exists." Without that part, it ONLY sounds like a "faith claim".
Can't say that I agree with you. There is a variety of reasons people become atheists; rational thinking is just one of them. Some people have lost their belief in god for emotional reasons, for instance because they had a traumatizing experience. Of course this can work both ways.

Other than that, what makes you think that "a lack of belief in a deity" sounds like a faith claim? Firstly, faith is a belief that is not based on evidence. Since atheism is the absence of belief, it would be semantical nonsense to assert that it's based on faith. Secondly, the definition of atheism we're currently talking about does not make any claims. If anything, that would be gnostic/strong atheism ("[I know] there is no god.").

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02-12-2012, 09:00 AM (This post was last modified: 02-12-2012 09:14 AM by DeavonReye.)
RE: Atheism By Definition
I should have added that it sounds like a "faith belief" to theists who merely believe that the atheist is accepting the "no gods" claim without evidence. Then they throw in the "Can you know all things?" or "can you PROVE that God doesn't exist?" type of responses.

But I see what you're saying.
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