The definition of atheism
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07-12-2013, 06:01 PM
RE: The definition of atheism
(07-12-2013 05:51 PM)Teen-skeptic-go! Wrote:  
Quote:Fact of the matter is that you are either a theist or an atheist, there is no middle ground.

So, I'm guessing Agnosticism is a myth? Consider
Agnostic is not related to belief.
It pertains to knowledge rather than belief.
You can have agnostic atheists but you can also have agnostic theists.

So claiming that a person is agnostic doesn't give you an answer as to whether they are atheist or theist.
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07-12-2013, 06:10 PM
RE: The definition of atheism
Atheist: Not a theist.
Atheism: Not theism.

I prefer fantasy, but I have to live in reality.
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07-12-2013, 06:27 PM
RE: The definition of atheism
(07-12-2013 06:01 PM)Stevil Wrote:  
(07-12-2013 05:51 PM)Teen-skeptic-go! Wrote:  So, I'm guessing Agnosticism is a myth? Consider
Agnostic is not related to belief.
It pertains to knowledge rather than belief.
You can have agnostic atheists but you can also have agnostic theists.

So claiming that a person is agnostic doesn't give you an answer as to whether they are atheist or theist.

Though there are agnostic theists and agnostic atheists, there are pure agnostics. Here:


10 Gnostic Theist
9
8
7
6
5 Pure Agnostic
4
3
2
1 Gnostic Atheist

Some people are completely in the middle.

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07-12-2013, 06:35 PM
RE: The definition of atheism
It's definition from the Latin term atheosis which means without God. This means that atheists are irreligious people who don't believe in shit, (AKA smart people lol).
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07-12-2013, 06:35 PM
RE: The definition of atheism
(07-12-2013 06:27 PM)Teen-skeptic-go! Wrote:  
(07-12-2013 06:01 PM)Stevil Wrote:  Agnostic is not related to belief.
It pertains to knowledge rather than belief.
You can have agnostic atheists but you can also have agnostic theists.

So claiming that a person is agnostic doesn't give you an answer as to whether they are atheist or theist.

Though there are agnostic theists and agnostic atheists, there are pure agnostics. Here:


10 Gnostic Theist
9
8
7
6
5 Pure Agnostic
4
3
2
1 Gnostic Atheist

Some people are completely in the middle.

No, it's two dimensional - gnosticism/agnosticism is orthogonal to theism/atheism.

Skepticism is not a position; it is an approach to claims.
Science is not a subject, but a method.
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07-12-2013, 06:51 PM (This post was last modified: 07-12-2013 06:56 PM by Stevil.)
RE: The definition of atheism
(07-12-2013 06:27 PM)Teen-skeptic-go! Wrote:  Though there are agnostic theists and agnostic atheists, there are pure agnostics. Here:


10 Gnostic Theist
9
8
7
6
5 Pure Agnostic
4
3
2
1 Gnostic Atheist

Some people are completely in the middle.
Those people that claim to be "Pure Agnostic" you would have to ask them if they believe in god/s.

If their answer is no, then they are atheist as well as "Pure Agnostic".
If their answer is yes, then they are theist as well as "Pure Agnostic".
If their answer is undecided or don't know, then I would count that as a lack of belief in god/s so I would also put them in the atheist basket as well as "Pure Agnostic"


In a way it is like asking if something is "Green". You could point to an apple and say this is a "Pure Apple" but this apple can still be green AND a "Pure Apple".
There are also some red "Pure Apples" as well.
The colour of the apple does not change its purity.
And the beliefs of an Agnostic does not change their purity.
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07-12-2013, 06:55 PM
RE: The definition of atheism
(07-12-2013 06:01 PM)Stevil Wrote:  
(07-12-2013 05:51 PM)Teen-skeptic-go! Wrote:  So, I'm guessing Agnosticism is a myth? Consider
Agnostic is not related to belief.
It pertains to knowledge rather than belief.
You can have agnostic atheists but you can also have agnostic theists.

So claiming that a person is agnostic doesn't give you an answer as to whether they are atheist or theist.

Believe is not the same as "to know".

In science, which pretty much deals with our secular existence, facts, or high degrees of probability, are obtained by observation and testing, and if deemed worthy applied in all manner of fields.

People, if they choose, can 'believe, non scientific subjective considerations based on faith (and doubts) without the proofs of the scientific method. This is an option.
Where coercive behaviour, say jihads occur, this of course goes far beyond the pale, and along with other aspects of organized religions can become exceedingly dangerous.

Some people use Buddhism in a religious way by worshipping little Buddha statues.
Buddha never claimed to be a god and advised his followers to do their own research.
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08-12-2013, 02:32 AM
RE: The definition of atheism
(07-12-2013 01:12 PM)Fat Mac Wrote:  Apologies if this sort of thing has been discussed to death, but I was curious.

A Google search defines atheism as "disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods."

But Dictionary.com, Merriam-Webster, and FreeDictionary.com describe atheism as the doctrine (or belief) that there is no God/are not deities.

Every atheist I've known (and many on this site and other sites) (and I myself don't like to call atheism a "belief," since really all it is is a disbelief) is adamant about atheism not being a belief, but being nothing but a disbelief in something.

Which definition is correct, and what reasoning is there for one of them to be the correct one?

To fully answer your question, I'll have to break down exactly how language works. Short answer: It depends on how you define "correct".

If you're looking for a definition that corresponds to some abstract, absolute, verifiable-property-of-the-universe meaning for the word "atheist", then forget it. There ain't no such animal. Semantic definitions are social artifacts. They are tools constructed to fit society's needs, and can change as society does. The word "atheism" has no innate meaning... only the meaning which specific people or society as a whole ascribe to it. Or I should say meanings, plural, because as you already know there is more than one meaning ascribed to the word.

Dictionaries are typically written by people cataloging common usages -- that is, meanings frequently ascribed to the words by large segments of the population that uses those words. They aren't attempting to create definitions, but to capture the definitions already in use, and they tend to lag behind common usage by years or decades. They do not provide original definition or even declarative definition, at least not in English. As such, they are only "correct" if the common usage is "correct" and if they have updated their definition recently enough to reflect shifts in common usage.

That's English. French, on the other hand, has L'Acadamie Francaise, which was empowered during the 17th century to dictate what words were and weren't "officially" French. Spain has a similar institution for Spanish. Whether these institutions have legitimate authority over what people say and what people mean is highly questionable, but they have considerable respect amongst their respective language buffs and their definitions are widely viewed as official. The English language has no such institution, and it shows. Ye gads, it shows. "The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary. " -- James Davis Nicoll

The common usage of the word "atheist" is shifting. Archaically (and still used so in some intellectually isolated, extremist Christian circles) it essentially means "ungodly" and therefore evil. This usage isn't about non-belief so much as a lack of obedience or moral behavior. Two or three decades ago, the word "atheist" clearly meant someone with a positive belief in the non-existence of gods, and an Atheist could be contrasted with an Agnostic, who reserved judgement on whether or not some gods existed. Nowadays, a definite shift is underway, and it is quite common to encounter the definition of an atheist as someone who is absent a belief in the existence of gods, even if that absence is the result of reserved judgement rather than positive rejection. In this usage there is overlap with the word "agnostic", and one can be an "agnostic atheist" by reserving judgement or a "gnostic atheist" by positively affirming the non-existence of gods. My perception is that the definition of a couple decades ago is still in the majority, but the newer definition is definitely worthy of an entry in the dictionary itself, and that's the way the winds are blowing. Notably, it is either fast becoming the dominant usage among those who identify as atheists, or already there. (Those who identify as agnostics, though, tend to utilize the older, non-overlapping usage.)

Could we take common usage to be the "correct" definition? Well, maybe. There's some appeal to that which I'll get into in a bit. But ultimately, we need to recognize that common usage is not fixed. It shifts over the years, and even in the same moment can offer different definitions in different social groups. When did "cool" start referring to more than temperature? When did the "incorrect" definition become the "correct one", and, if it were to be the "correct" definition at some point, why was it "incorrect" before? At what point does slang become common usage? Common usage is hardly a fixed rock upon which we can anchor a notion of "correct" definition.

So, if there's no declarative force dictating what is or isn't the "correct" definition, nor some natural, empirically testable quality, nor really any objective measure of the "correctness" of definition, how would we identify it? We can only get by with applying some subjective, mutable notion of "correctness". And in choosing which notion to apply (and there is more than one to choose between, else it could not be mutable and would not be subjective), we should reflect that these words are ultimately tools. Tools to accomplish things. Nothing more. Which notion of "correct" we use should follow from what we wish to accomplish.

So, what might we try to accomplish? Here's three suggestions.

Clear communication: By conforming to the most ubiquitous convention, we minimize the chance of being misunderstood. Words are primarily used for communicating ideas, and ideas are best communicated when our audience understands the words we use to convey them. If I say "dog" and I really mean "salad", I'm going to confuse the heck out of you. This is a huge argument in favor of common usage. This suggests that one should seek to understand what definition your audience adheres to, and utilize that. It also suggests that rather than arguing over what the "correct" definition of words are in any given conversation, we should simply establish working definitions so as to get to the main event of talking about the ideas, rather than the words. Ideally, we wouldn't have to do even that much. Like a car engine, words work best when you don't have to think about what's happening under the hood. But this can also be a reason to depart, slightly, from the convention of common usage, in order to meet the need of a concept that doesn't really have a word to precisely convey it.

Framing: Sometimes it helps to frame a question, problem, or debate in a certain way. This can be used rhetorically (to persuade or stymie others) or analytically (to better understand it when working through it yourself). There can be strong advantages, rhetorical as well as analytical, to classifying groups and beliefs in one way or the other.

Group Identity: For social reasons, we often wish to be able to point to some group and say, "I'm with them" or "I'm against them". Not all members of the Democratic party are gung-ho about Democracy, nor Republicans about the notion of republics. (This is especially noticeable in foreign policy.) The words are about who one is grouped with, rather than the meaning they actually convey. Or, rather, group identity BECOMES the meaning they convey. This is probably the biggest argument in favor of the newest definition, as it quickly associates a person with the growing movement.

Ultimately, the "correct" definition depends on your goals in using the word in the first place.

(BTW, I really hate the "lack of belief" phrasing, and I prefer "absence of belief". Semantically they mean the same thing, but "lack" carries the connotation of missing something which is needed or desired. It's a small thing, but it bugs the crap out of me.)

tl;dr: Depends what you mean by "correct".
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08-12-2013, 10:53 AM
RE: The definition of atheism
(07-12-2013 04:27 PM)Vosur Wrote:  
(07-12-2013 01:12 PM)Fat Mac Wrote:  But Dictionary.com, Merriam-Webster, and FreeDictionary.com describe atheism as the doctrine (or belief) that there is no God/are not deities.
You left out the alternative definitions from those very dictionaries. Dodgy

Dictionary
• disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings

Merriam Webster
• a disbelief in the existence of deity

Free Dictionary
• disbelief in or denial of the existence of God or gods
• rejection of belief in God or gods

I use Oxford Dictionaries myself.

atheism
Syllabification: (a·the·ism)
Pronunciation: /ˈāTHēˌizəm/
noun
disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods

I left it out because I already stated that definition when I mentioned Google's definition.
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08-12-2013, 11:27 AM
RE: The definition of atheism
(08-12-2013 10:53 AM)Fat Mac Wrote:  I left it out because I already stated that definition when I mentioned Google's definition.
Your question as to which definition is correct is meaningless because all of the dictionaries you mentioned share a common definition.

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