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What makes somebody atheist and not a theist?

Audie

Veteran Member
Depends upon a person's conception of "god".

The real mindless responses are people who think that atheism or theism have anything meaningful to do with intelligence or rational thinking.
I guess that's correct to,the extent that being
a yec requires low iq / education, or a zero on
applied rational thought.
 

Ella S.

Dispassionate Goth
@Heyo recently made a distinction between "atheism" and "Atheism" which I approve quite a bit of. I probably would not have defined Atheism so generally, though. For me, I see "Atheism" as a positive stance that classical Theism is false, which asserts the existence of an absolute metaphysical agency who both transcends the universe and is immanent within the totality of it, who not only created the universe but continues to act upon it in order to maintain natural law, and who is spaceless and timeless. It might also, depending on the context, assert the falsity of closely related modifications of classical Theism, such as those made by Swinburne or WLC which do not necessarily affirm the timelessness of God.

The concept of theism has been expanded to include the God of monotheism, panentheism, Deism, panendeism, and the gods of duotheism, bitheism, ditheism, tritheism, and both hard and soft polytheism, and so on. As such, we also have the term "non-theism" for those who lack any of these forms of theism, which contains its own diverse perspectives including apatheism, pantheism, agnosticism, ignosticism (different from agnosticism), and ietsism.

Sometimes, non-theism is conflated with atheism, such as in the modern atheist movement, which generally includes a wide range of non-theists. This is what is often referred to as "atheism" in non-academic contexts. Many atheists are Atheists, but the ones who are not are sometimes called "agnostic atheists," "weak atheists," or "lacktheists." Confusingly, "strong atheism" is sometimes taken to mean the positive belief that no gods exist, which is a step beyond the Atheism of academic philosophy, which is usually focused on rejecting a more narrow concept of God.

Due to the fact that the word "god" has been used to translate concepts from a variety of extremely diverse cultures worldwide, it is difficult to come up with a singular definition for what it refers to. Even when a definition can be found, agreeing on how to interpret that definition also often comes with its fair share of challenges. Since "theism" in general is a fuzzy concept, especially when it comes to polytheistic animists, "atheism" must necessarily be quite fuzzy as well.

It is an unnecessarily confusing subject. When someone says they are an atheist or a theist, it really does not tell you very much about what they actually believe. There are Christians who identify as atheists, for instance, who might affirm pantheism or pandeism or might even follow Christianity as a form of Christian Existentialism, Jeffersonianism, or Jesusism.

To be fair, many of the categories and divisions in religion can be relatively blurry and often have a number of counter-intuitive fringe cases like that. It's easier to treat each individual as having their own unique, idiosyncratic religious beliefs and the labels they use as oversimplifications for the sake of smoothing social communication.
 

Heyo

Veteran Member
@Heyo recently made a distinction between "atheism" and "Atheism" which I approve quite a bit of.
I also distinguish between "informed atheists" and "ignorant atheists", the later often been labelled "lacktheists".
The definition of "doesn't believe in any gods = atheist" is OK as a simple classification but it is appropriating and inflating the numbers when it's more than that like adding them to the atheist movement. (A stone is an "atheist" but it doesn't move.)
I guess that is why many refuse the label "atheist" even when it fits. The co-notation goes beyond the definition.

My chosen philosophy is Agnosticism but I'm also an atheist by definition. The former says much more about me than the later.
 

Ella S.

Dispassionate Goth
I also distinguish between "informed atheists" and "ignorant atheists", the later often been labelled "lacktheists".
The definition of "doesn't believe in any gods = atheist" is OK as a simple classification but it is appropriating and inflating the numbers when it's more than that like adding them to the atheist movement. (A stone is an "atheist" but it doesn't move.)
I guess that is why many refuse the label "atheist" even when it fits. The co-notation goes beyond the definition.

My chosen philosophy is Agnosticism but I'm also an atheist by definition. The former says much more about me than the later.
Those are strong qualifications, thank you for adding them.

I do think it's interesting that "atheist" now has more of a social connotation. When people think of an atheist, they aren't normally picturing a baby elephant, for example. They're usually thinking of people that are likely to self-identify as atheists, not dissimilar to how we define other (non-)religious social groups, such as Christians.

I'm not sure that focus on self-identification completely removes the ambiguity, but I think it's normally "good enough" in practice.

I also don't really view my atheism (which is comprised of a belief that classical theism is false and a lack of a belief in any other kind of deity) as the most noteworthy aspect of my worldview. It comes up in comparisons sometimes, but I think being an Epistemic (and Moral) Rationalist and a Naturalistic Stoic are more noteworthy. Both imply not just atheism, but the specific kinds of atheism that I fall under and why.

I do notice that many atheists prefer positive identifications like Humanist, Existentialist, freethinker, skeptic, empiricist, rationalist, post-theist, and so on, all of which more specifically imply not just a kind of atheism but often explain the philosophical roots of a worldview that includes or leads to that atheism.

Which is not to say that there is no use in the label "atheist," obviously. Especially in the US, I think that's an important social category in a country that is so saturated with religion. I do find it interesting that the Atheist Experience and Talk Heathen have both started making concessions to polytheists, though, which I found to be an odd direction at first until I realized that the atheist movement in the US is mostly a counter-movement to cultural Christianity.
 

sun rise

The world is on fire
Premium Member
What makes somebody atheist and not a theist?

I was an atheist from the beginning because I found any consideration of God a useless waste of time and utterly unimportant. When God came into my life that naturally changed. So for me, nothing made me an atheist when I was young. God changed my mind.
 
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Viker

Häxan
I was an atheist from the beginning because I found any consideration of God a useless waste of time and utterly unimportant. When God came into my life that naturally changed. So for me, nothing made me an atheist when I was young. God changed my mind.
I was a good little monotheist at one time. Then I was an atheist for a little while. Then I learned about joining the gods (dark side).


Can't beat 'em................. :p
 

Aupmanyav

Be your own guru
I was a theist for half my life, but for nearly the last 30 or 40 years I am a strong atheist - denying even the possibility of existence of any God or soul.
 

Mock Turtle

Oh my, did I say that!
Premium Member
What makes somebody atheist and not a theist?
For theism? Possibly believing in several hundreds or thousand pages of text as being 'as presented', and hence as to whatever concept of God or similar comes from such. Perhaps some come to be a theist by other means but mostly it is the major religions that provide the basis for this - and usually coming early on, so more an indoctrination into such - given that children rarely have any control over what is taught to them.

An atheist, on the other hand, possibly will not see such evidence as being sufficient to make God the likeliest option, and is more likely to see such texts as written by people of the time and for them rather than for all time. That is mainly why I tend to dismiss religious texts, apart from much of what is said within not being evidenced in reality - not mine at least. And of course the sheer number of different religious beliefs hardly gives a clear consensus for theism even if it is the majority concept - being possibly the most plausible, even if it is still wrong.
 
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