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Atheism: A belief?

Discussion in 'General Religious Debates' started by Orias, Mar 5, 2011.

  1. atanu

    atanu Member
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    I do not think so. First the sentence above is tricky. Does it mean that atheist has no belief whatsover on the subject of god's existence? In that case, a rain drop is an atheist. Then this definition is faulty -- I think, a raindrop is not in a position to form a view on any issue. Definition of atheism as merely "absence of theism" or mere "lack of belief in deity", tries to impose only a particular variety of atheism as true "atheism".

    OTOH, if, we take the definition to imply that atheists have weighed various reasons for not believing in any deity then It means that atheist holds a conscious position regarding non-existence of deity, irrespective of actual existence or non-existence of a deity. The unattainability of knowledge for or against the existence of gods can be seen as indication that atheism requires a belief.

    In the second understanding of the given definition, It was shown that in common usage "I do not believe that the letter was delivered" means "I believe the letter was not delivered".
     
  2. Copernicus

    Copernicus Godless Hierophant

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    Nothing at all. It is just a generalization that you can make about atheists--that they all believe they are mortal. It is obvious that the implication only goes in one direction. It is true that all atheists lack belief in gods, but it is not so obvious to everyone that you cannot reverse the generalization and claim that all people who lack belief in gods are therefore atheists. Nevertheless, it is the same logical mistake.

    Well, the position that one lacks a belief is itself a "belief", but that misses the point. You and I both agree that it would be utterly silly to define a theist as one who lacks a belief that gods do not exist. Theism just entails that lack of belief. The lack of belief does not encapsulate what theism is. Similarly, atheism entails a lack of belief in gods. Lack of belief in gods does not encapsulate what atheism is. Theism and atheism are polar opposites. People who lack any belief at all with respect to gods fall outside of the scope of those words.

    Exactly. :clap

    How do you reject a claim without holding an opinion that the claim is false? I honestly do not understand how that is supposed to work. If I had no opinion about the truth of a claim, I would not say that I "rejected" the claim.

    I understand what you are trying to say here, but I think that you are trying too hard to include people under the label "atheist" who really aren't committed to any proposition with respect to the existence of gods. Again, I think that the more appropriate term here is "agnostic", not "atheist". If one actually crosses the line and claims "rejection" of a belief--as you seem wont to do--then that person holds an opinion with respect to the existence of gods and can be reasonably called an atheist. I am assuming here that you would agree with an earlier definition I gave for atheism--and a definition that was rejected by many others here--"rejection of belief in the existence of gods." Rejection is not neutrality. One can easily find theists who reject the idea that there is evidence for the existence of gods yet still are inclined to believe in one

    I got into a big discussion with Penguin already on what it means to call something a "god". If you are willing to claim that a god can be an orange peel or a milk carton, then both of us would have to be considered theists, because we believe that those objects do exist. Penguin seemed unwilling to be pinned down on what could be called a "god", but I don't think that that was really germane to a common-sense definition of atheism. For all practical purposes, we reject belief in the entities that most people describe as a "god". I am perhaps less willing than him to trust descriptions that theists sometimes give their gods. It is not unusual for theists to deny anthropomorphism but behave towards their deity as if it had anthropomorphic properties.

    Because atheism is a negative belief, we keep getting caught up in these nasty sentences with multiple negation. I'm trying to figure out what "disagreement" would commit me to here. :) You might reject an argument that a deity exists without actually rejecting belief in that deity. You might also reject a commitment to any belief at all with respect to the existence of that deity. In that case, I would say that you were "agnostic" with respect to that god. Rejecting the validity of arguments is not the same as rejecting the truth of conclusions. Theists can reject the validity of arguments in favor of the existence of deities. So rejecting an argument is not what defines atheism. It is rejecting the truth of the conclusion.

    So you and I are in 100% agreement on this, right? Atheism is rejecting the claim that gods exist, not just rejecting the arguments that they exist.
     
  3. Willamena

    Willamena Just me
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    Toge party!

    If the toggle isn't there at all, you're either dead or in a coma.
     
  4. Commoner

    Commoner Headache

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    But that's not the "path" by which I came to the conclusion... It certainly would be a mistake to assume that, since all atheists lack the belief in god, all who lack the belief in god are atheists.

    But that's exactly what you're doing with atheism, which starts out as being simply the rejection of the theistic belief system and pushing it towards being a belief contrary to that belief/system. You're a theist because you believe in god, you are an atheist because you do not believe in a god. You are not a theist because you lack disbelief in a god, neither are you an atheist because you hold the belief that gods don't exist. Both descriptions are silly.

    I do have an opinion about the truth of the claim, but it's not that direct. Imagine someone rolling a dice in the dark and then making the claim that it was a "six". I reject that claim as a matter of principle, not because I necessarily believe that it wasn't a six, but because there is no justification for such a belief. Not all claims are made equal.

    I agree that atheism is the rejection of theism, but I disagree about what that implies. I reject the hypothesis being put forth, that doesn't mean that I'm necessarily making an absolute statement about the truth value of the conclusion. Just as I can agree with you that it would be a mistake to conclude that all who lack the belief in god are atheists on the basis of the fact that all atheists lack the belief in god, without actually making any truth claims about the actual conclusion apart from the argument. You want me to not only reject the hypothesis, but also accept the alternative conclusion in order to be called an atheist. I don't think that's necessary - but I do think it is necessary for one to actually be confronted with a god claim and have them reject it before they can be labeled an atheist. That gets rid of all the baby nonsense.

    Now, you might be using the word "reject" in a different way, in which case we are not in agreement that atheism is the rejection of theism.

    One problem at a time, shall we? :D But this is another reason why it's much more resonable to reject specific arguments for god/specific god beliefs than it is to hold the belief that god, which to me doesn't really mean anything apart from what I know it means to other people, does not exist.

    They can also reject the truth of the conclusion - and they do for all but one god (usually). That's not what defines atheism either. The difference is very simple imo... An atheist rejects god claims he is confronted with and also lacks the belief in a god, a theist accepts at least one god claim and believes in god(s). To imply that someone would have to go out of their way and "disprove" the existence of a god to the extent that they would be justified in a belief that god(s) do not exist in order to be an atheist is certainly not my idea of atheism.

    What's the distinction between rejecting the claim and rejecting the argument. Neither of those gets you to where you want to get. If by rejecting the claim you mean making a truth statement about the conclusion, rather than the argument, then - no, we're not in agreement.

    How could you even make a truth statement about the conclusion for which you have no outside reference. It's not like "Amy is taller than Mike", "Mike is taller than John", therefore "Amy is taller than John" or whatever, when I can have an actual real-life reference and see directly whether or not Amy is taller than John and therefore take a position on the truth value of the conclusion rather than the validity of the argument. There is no such thing when the argument is about the existence of god. How could I possibly conclude from an invalid argument that the christian god does not exists if the only reference I have of the christian god is that and other arguments.

    It seems that your argument would make the definition of "atheist" fit only to those who claim to have falsified the unfalsifiable...
     
    #1644 Commoner, Apr 9, 2011
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2011
  5. Orias

    Orias Left Hand Path

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    I think you misunderstand what point he was trying to make.

    Not all "atheists" "lack the belief in the existence of "God(s)", though a large majority does not believe that "God(s)" exist.

    When you take it into context, belief can be of a positive (a strong and direct presupposition) or negative (a skeptical and lacking presupposition). Hence the different labored denominations of "atheism".

    Simply "atheism" is "without "God(s)". This direct label is simple in it's implication that one who takes the label "atheist" unto themselves, believes in this substantiated ontologic view, hence believing that they are an "atheist" and believes that "God(s)" do not exist (give or take the strength of this "absence of belief").
    No, that's not what he is doing at all.

    It is simple, a belief is something that is supposedly or perceived to be true. This applies everywhere.

    Metaphysical words and descriptions can hardly be considered not a belief since it's essence is of that of our own minds and perception. If it were such descriptions or labels were merely factual, 90% of this website would be rendered useless, not mention atheists themselves wouldn't be arguing atheism as a belief.

    You do realize you just proved our points :D

    Any position taken is of an absolute proposition, simply because One chooses to take the label unto themselves.

    The relevance of the "truth" in the value of your conclusion is little, to the point in your mind you are already of a convicted stance of uncertainty.

    I think what he is getting at is that, sure you are an "atheist" under the broad definition, but your proposition is of a certain "flavor" of "atheism". In otherwords, you are misrepresenting the Original spectrum of "atheism", or "without "God(s)"".

    Come on, we don't need to play semantics with the word "reject". It is simple, to reject is to refuse. The subsequent points that follow can only lead One to a "strength" of this rejection. Which you seem to be in favor of the, "I'm not certain" position. Which seems pretty common among the people who here who have continually pushed the, "atheism is merely a "lack of belief".

    Some people are completely certain in their proclamation, some are not, some are "strongly skeptical", some are just down right indifferent. Any position taken used to describe a "God" position or view is of belief, since none of it is factual, and merely based on metaphysical words.


    This statement would only be rejecting the label "God(s)" and not the personality of it. Which isn't necessarily a state of skepticism, rather down right rejection. Which was what Copernicus has been trying to get at for some time now.

    Well what you think "atheism" should be is irrelevant to what it is.

    Rejecting a claim is rejecting the argument, because you cement yourself in a narrow position.

    If you can at least consider the claim, then the argument can be taken rationally and sincerely, instead of narrow and hypocritical.

    This is key, your comparing concrete and objectional material to something that is not tangible.

    The position of "truth" is merely that One believes in what they perceive.

    Labels are solipsistic, and that's all that's too it.
     
  6. Commoner

    Commoner Headache

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    What? :rolleyes:
     
  7. Orias

    Orias Left Hand Path

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    Reading the rest of the post usually helps clarify :rainbow1:
     
  8. Commoner

    Commoner Headache

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    Usually, not this time... hence the "what?"
     
  9. Orias

    Orias Left Hand Path

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    Don't deceive yourself. Pleeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaassssssssseee.
     
  10. Commoner

    Commoner Headache

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    What are you even talking about, Orias?
     
  11. Orias

    Orias Left Hand Path

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    At least attempt to understand what I am saying.
     
  12. 9-10ths_Penguin

    9-10ths_Penguin 1/10 Riboflavin
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    ... or you're someone (a baby?) whose beliefs are not yet formed.

    How is that toggle set for a newborn baby?
     
  13. 9-10ths_Penguin

    9-10ths_Penguin 1/10 Riboflavin
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    Relevancy doesn't determine correctness. I wouldn't bring up the fact that babies are atheists in a debate for the same reasons that I wouldn't bring up the fact the Hitler was a Catholic: it just doesn't matter in the vast majority of cases. That doesn't mean that I think that either claim is false.

    So... does the fact that I don't normally mention Hitler's Catholicity in debates mean that I think that he wasn't a Catholic?

    But what would it need to be to be "in my favour"? You acknowledged earlier that a word's usage doesn't have to be in the majority for it to be valid. If anything, a 50-50 split says to me that you're wrong in saying that I can't use the word the way I do.

    And my point before was that the vast majority of people who disagree with the idea that babies are atheists do so because of reasons that you would agree are invalid as well, and not because they think your definition is correct. Once we stop counting all these people as some sort of "support" for your definition, the foundation for your argument seems much less solid.

    I haven't "bought into" anything. And I think that you're trying to make excuses for the fact that your straw man is false.

    But that doesn't change the fact that when people don't care one way or the other, this neither speaks for or against your argument. You're wrong in claiming it as support for your side.

    And you think your definition is a good one?

    AFAICT, if a person was to say "I don't reject belief in gods, but I don't believe in any of them either", you'd classify that person as "not an atheist". How is that not misleading?
     
  14. Willamena

    Willamena Just me
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    I don't know enough about either babies or consciousness to say one way or the other. The jury's still out, but I allow that as far as they are conscious and learning, they are learning beliefs.
     
  15. FlyingTeaPot

    FlyingTeaPot Irrational Rationalist. Educated Fool.

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    I disagree. I think a lack of belief is perhaps the perfect way to define atheism. It is not a cop out. It is a rather subtle and beautiful argument which many people simply fail to understand.
     
  16. 9-10ths_Penguin

    9-10ths_Penguin 1/10 Riboflavin
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  17. 9-10ths_Penguin

    9-10ths_Penguin 1/10 Riboflavin
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    A light bulb just went on in my head:

    When we were discussing the definition of the word "god", you brushed off the problems at the edges of the term "god" by arguing that words only need to have validity in the mainstream, core sense of the word. Why have you gone against this approach on the word "atheist"?

    I mean, hopefully we will both agree that the question of whether babies are atheists lies at the edge of the meaning of the term "atheist": effectively, you're arguing that this usage lies just beyond the edge, and I'm arguing that it lies just within.

    So... given your position about how words are used when it comes to the word "god", why have you taken the opposite tack on the word "atheist"?
     
  18. Willamena

    Willamena Just me
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    "Assumption" is the wrong word for what you're describing (you either have an image of God, or you don't), but that aside, yes, you will have justification for making an investment of belief. We all will. To reject the claim that the number 'six' has rolled in the dark is to trust that the other person has no justification for their belief (that they are not, for instance, wearing night-vision goggles). You make your assessment of the truth value of the claim when you know there's no way to see in the dark --right?
     
  19. Commoner

    Commoner Headache

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    I make no assessment of the truth value of his conclusion, no. I'm not saying it is a six, I'm not saying it's not a six. I am simply rejecting his claim as invalid - that's the most I can say about it and that's the most that can be said about it. If that kind of reasoning is not enough to make me an atheist in the case of my rejection of various god claims than I truly don't know what could be. Should I proclaim belief in the opposite outcome, perhaps on the basis of some sort of rudimentary probabilistic analysis? I don't think that's necessary.
     
    #1660 Commoner, Apr 10, 2011
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2011
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