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Featured Is atheism a belief?

Discussion in 'General Religious Debates' started by adrian009, Sep 6, 2019.

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  1. Yes

    30.0%
  2. No

    55.0%
  3. Maybe

    8.3%
  4. I don’t know

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  5. This poll doesn’t reflect my thinking

    6.7%
  1. adrian009

    adrian009 Well-Known Member
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    Atheism could be defined as:

    A person who disbelieves or lacks belief in the existence of God or gods.

    Another way of phrasing it could be one who believes there is no God or gods.

    I’m good with either definition but not everyone is. Maybe I shouldn’t be either.

    What is the best definition of atheism and why can it be so difficult to define?
     
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  2. Vinayaka

    Vinayaka devotee
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    That would be an atheist not atheism. Regardless, I can't see how such a word with so many variances would ever have a definition acceptable to all. But I do think it better to have atheists define themselves, perhaps right down to an individual level. Theists, from what I've read, are doing a poor job of it. Generally, people within a group ndo a better job from those outside the group.
     
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  3. AT-AT

    AT-AT Well-Known Member

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    The way I've always understood it, people tend to be given some leeway to decide their own classification. For example, a person can say they're a Christian, and few people dispute that.

    Though there is that rare case when a person is wrong. In which case, the benefit of a doubt is no longer extended. For example, a person may see themselves as an atheist, but be very open-minded to the idea of God and unsure, and people might say they're an agnostic.

    Most atheists say atheism is a lack of belief. By not extending that right to them to be considered that, without any strong proof that atheism is a belief, could potentially be seen as "being too hard on them".

    So it's a good debate, but this is why I choose to consider atheism a lack of belief. I think it's safe to do so as well, considering the number of atheists who consider it a lack of belief.
     
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  4. JJ50

    JJ50 Well-Known Member

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    Lack of belief in any god doesn't make it a religion, imo.
     
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  5. Terry Sampson

    Terry Sampson ζει

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    I agree, even if it does take all the fun out of harassing someone.
     
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  6. adrian009

    adrian009 Well-Known Member
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    You’re right about the atheist as opposed to atheism.

    The words atheism and atheist will clearly have a range of meanings. At some point I want to have a much clearer grasp of some of those differences and why they are so important, particularly to those who identify as atheist. I don’t see how I can get there without hearing from atheists themselves.

    Thanks for your post.
     
  7. Vinayaka

    Vinayaka devotee
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    Personally, I consider pure atheism a definitive statement that there is no God, period. Non-belief is not the same, in my view. That's agnosticism to me. Probably more common middle ground than we know. It's a non-belief. I don't believe in God, and I also don't believe in no God. The whole idea of God is irrelevant. Unfortunately, they sometimes get labelled as atheists. This comes form very 'this or that' mindsets.

    Then there are people who can be either atheist or theist to various definitions of God. So it depends which God. So atheist today, theist tomorrow.
     
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  8. HonestJoe

    HonestJoe Well-Known Member

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    Many words have varying definitions (sometimes subtle, sometimes extreme) depending on the precise context it is being used in. I don’t think you can legitimately declare a singular specific definition for pretty much any word on that basis.

    Atheism is especially difficult because of its implicit association with the highly emotive and widely impactful field of religion and theology and the way in which it is so commonly used and abused by all sorts of different people for their own socio-political purposes.

    To that end, I find it best to avoid defining or using the word at all as much is possible. I think there is a general benefit in political, sociological and philosophical discussion in focusing less on generic labels for large groups of people and more on individual ideas, statements and actions. I’m not an atheist or a theist, conservative or liberal, black or white. I’m an Honest Joe, the only term that accurately describes me a whole individual. :cool:
     
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  9. Augustus

    Augustus the Unreasonable

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    athe(os) -ism

    Without god -ism = belief/position/stance - disbelief in gods imo.

    Because it serves an ideological/political purpose for many people

    (and allows some of them to make 'jokes' like "if atheism is a belief then bald is a hair colour and not collecting stamps is a hobby!!!!!" that were staggeringly unfunny even before they were repeated 16 million times ) :D
     
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  10. adrian009

    adrian009 Well-Known Member
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    • The question isn’t ‘Is atheism a religion?’ Instead its is atheism a belief? What is a belief? It could be defined as:

    • 1/ an acceptance that something exists or is true, especially one without proof.
    • 2/ trust, faith, or confidence in (someone or something).
    So most of what I believe in has little to do with religion or even faith.

    Do you think the word belief is specifically about religion?
     
  11. adrian009

    adrian009 Well-Known Member
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    The whole atheism vs agnosticism is another area that’s prone to differences of opinion and misunderstandings. Agnosticism as I understand it addresses another question, particularly in regards to whether or not its possible to know something. Atheism is about belief or lack of belief in God or gods. A common misunderstanding is agnosticism occupies a middle ground between theism and atheism. Perhaps we should hear from any agnostics as to how they see it?
     
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  12. ChristineM

    ChristineM "Be strong" I whispered to my coffee.
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    Atheism is a belief like not collecting stamps is a hobby.

    So, no, it is not difficult to define and your definition is accurate. Only when you begin to play with semantics does confusion creep in. I understand that those who have a belief in god or gods are the ones bastardising the accepted definition to make themselves feel better, usually because they cannot grasp the concept of disbelief in gods.
     
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  13. Vinayaka

    Vinayaka devotee
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    Yes, it's tough, and that's why I figure it might be futile. Within agnosticism, there is both an 'I don't know' and an 'I don't care' POV, and when you think about it, those two are rather different. In all of these there are both soft and hard stances, and ranges in between. If you asked people to put their belief in a %, there would be great variance. The phrase 'leaning towards ______ also come up some.
     
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  14. adrian009

    adrian009 Well-Known Member
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    I do like the phrase ‘honest Joe’ and you’ve made some useful points.

    Regardless of the difficulty around the use of the word atheism its necessary to use the religion, particularly around the whole discussion about religious beliefs. Of course atheism isn’t a religious belief but is important to many sociopolitical narratives. So if we want to be meaningfully engaged in this conversation we need to use language and certain technical terms the best we can.
     
  15. Jayhawker Soule

    Jayhawker Soule <yawn> ignore </yawn>
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    "The map is not the territory." - Korzybski
     
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  16. adrian009

    adrian009 Well-Known Member
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    As much as the not collecting stamps phrase is a cliche, it does provide a useful metaphor for how atheism isn’t a religion.
     
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  17. ChristineM

    ChristineM "Be strong" I whispered to my coffee.
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    It works the same way, not collecting stamps, not believing in gods. I find it the not collecting stamps "cliche" to be accurate
     
  18. ratiocinator

    ratiocinator Strange Loop

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    That's it (well atheist, rather than atheism, as has been said). If you don't have any belief in god(s) you are an atheist. Some, but by no means all, atheists would also say that they believe there are no gods.

    What's hard?
     
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  19. Phaedrus

    Phaedrus Member

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    Atheism is the desbelief in the existence of god(s).

    What I have encountered is many theists erroneously referring to atheism as a religious belief.
     
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  20. Polymath257

    Polymath257 Think & Care
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    The first thing to realize is that there are a lot of variants of non-belief in religion. The terminology isn't even fixed among non-believers, but here is a version I have adopted:

    The first split is between belief and knowledge. A theist is someone who believes in a deity or deities. An atheist is someone who does not believe in such. A gnostic (not the Christian version) is someone who thinks it is possible to have knowledge about the existence of deities. An agnostic is someone who thinks such knowledge isn't possible.

    So, in the first split, we have four positions:

    1. Theist-gnostic: believes in deities and thinks that knowledge about such is possible.

    2. Theist-agnostic: believes in deities but doesn't think knowledge is possible about them.

    3. Atheist-gnostic: Does not believe in deities and thinks it is possible to know about this non-existence.

    4. Atheist-agnostic: does not believe in deities but thinks no knowledge is possible.

    Then, we can split the aspects of atheism down further (I'll leave subdividing the other categories to the reader).

    1. Hard atheist: believes there are no deities.
    2. Soft (or weak) atheist: does not have a belief in deities.

    These are the categories of the OP. Both fall under atheism, but atheists tend to distinguish them. Most people who call themselves atheists are weak atheists (and also agnostic).

    But there are other types of non-belief.

    Apatheism: those who don't care whether deities exist or not. This is usually a subtype of soft atheism.

    Ignosticism: Those who think the term 'deity' is not well defined enough to have a meaningful discussion. This can even be compatible with theism (negative theology).

    There is also something called the Dawkin's scale of belief which has absolutely certain theists as 0 on a scale and absolutely certain hard atheists as a 7. Most people fall somewhere in between. Dawkins himself says he is a 6.9.
     
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