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What makes somebody atheist and not a theist?

Valjean

Veteran Member
Premium Member
Of course not. If someone is predisposed to religion, the religion of the child's parents or culture will have a major if not determinant influence. A child might be born with an undeveloped talent for chess, athletics or anything but that talent must be developed by hard work.
We're predisposed to apophenia, pareidolia, and snap decisions, which, in turn, predispose us to religion.
Logic, reason and critical thinking are new things, never before biologically selective or useful. They are learned ski
 
I think that depends how broadly and in what contexts you're using the term, to be fair. For example, you wouldn't contest that an infant lacks a belief in giraffes, or lacks a belief in the efficacy of a two-state solution in the Israel-Palestine conflict, or lacks a belief that there is a sound solution to Fermat's last theorem. So, in a technical sense, I see no issue with stating that a baby lacks a belief in a God and, therefore, can technically be considered an atheist.

The difference is if one makes the assertion that this meaningfully contributes to discussion rather than simply being an acknowledgement of the broad definition of atheism as being a kind of neutral position that can include lacking belief. In other words, I think it's fine to say "babies are atheists" in a technical discussion about the broadest possible applications of the term, but I don't think it has much utility beyond that simple, observational illustration. When debating theism/atheism, the subject is rarely if ever debated from the position of not even having the ability to assess the claim, so I would say that it almost never serves much utility in any debate that isn't explicitly about the broadest usage of the term "atheist".
To me this only underlines the absurdity of ascribing any form of label to a newborn child. A baby has no concept of God, philosophy, politics, culture, sport etc. You could argue that a baby is A-anything but what's the point? There's no significance to it and such terminology is meaningless.
 

Secret Chief

nirvana is samsara
To me this only underlines the absurdity of ascribing any form of label to a newborn child. A baby has no concept of God, philosophy, politics, culture, sport etc. You could argue that a baby is A-anything but what's the point? There's no significance to it and such terminology is meaningless.
Newborns do not believe capitalism is a legitimate economic system. Therefore they are anti-capitalists.
 
You are fooling around with words, but avoiding the question, especially the second part of the question. If a baby is born, does it hold a belief in a god? If not, it is certainly not a theist. And since atheist means "lacks a belief in gods," it begins life -- by definition -- as an atheist. And if never presented with the concept of a god, which the second part of my question, how do you think he or she will develop such a concept, and what might it be like?
Is there a "default" position for a baby in regards to everything? If we're going into pedantic technicalities then babies are A-everything cos a newborn holds no political, philosophical, cultural views either as they're outside the remit of someone so young. These terms only become significant when cognitive development leads to understanding of what they mean - and that sure doesn't apply to babies and infants. I answered your hypothetical and have nothing to add to my previous.
 
The term becomes inclusive. There are two intentions behind the definition:
1. Get more people to admit that they are atheists.
2. Make clear that you don't have to "work" or even decide to be an atheist. In hope that #1 follows.

Most atheist organisations use that inclusive definition. I call them "ignorant atheists", others call them lacktheists.

And redundant? How do you call someone who doesn't believe in gods?
The term will become redundant when there are no theists any more to compare them.


That's the point. You don't need to hold a position.
A baby has no concept of terms we use as adults or any understanding of them either. Ergo, there's no "default" position on anything, at least not in any significant sense.
 

Evangelicalhumanist

"Truth" isn't a thing...
Premium Member
Is there a "default" position for a baby in regards to everything? If we're going into pedantic technicalities then babies are A-everything cos a newborn holds no political, philosophical, cultural views either as they're outside the remit of someone so young. These terms only become significant when cognitive development leads to understanding of what they mean - and that sure doesn't apply to babies and infants. I answered your hypothetical and have nothing to add to my previous.
Actually, there's quite a lot that babies "know" right from the beginning. They know when they are hungry, and how to nourish themselves when presented with a breast (or bottle). They are immediately attuned to recognize faces and voices, and bond with them. Long before they know a single word, they understand some things about the world (you can see it in the startle reaction when shown even the simplest of magic tricks - like showing an object, covering it, then removing the cover to show it gone). Studies show that when babies are born, they’ve already acquired knowledge about language, food preferences, and emotions.

Nothing about gods, however.
 
The point is, atheism isn't a doctrine, belief system or intellectual conclusion. We're using different definitions and talking past one another. By the currently preferred definition, simple lack of belief, would a baby, or an innocent deep in the Amazon rain forest, not be a-theist; without a God-concept?
Again, the concept of anything would be outside of a newborn's scope so what is the point in ascribing "default" positions to babies about anything?
 

Valjean

Veteran Member
Premium Member
To me this only underlines the absurdity of ascribing any form of label to a newborn child. A baby has no concept of God, philosophy, politics, culture, sport etc. You could argue that a baby is A-anything but what's the point? There's no significance to it and such terminology is meaningless.
The point is, there doesn't need to be a point for the term to apply.
It's up to the user to make her point, using whatever terms she chooses.
 
Actually, there's quite a lot that babies "know" right from the beginning. They know when they are hungry, and how to nourish themselves when presented with a breast (or bottle). They are immediately attuned to recognize faces and voices, and bond with them. Long before they know a single word, they understand some things about the world (you can see it in the startle reaction when shown even the simplest of magic tricks - like showing an object, covering it, then removing the cover to show it gone). Studies show that when babies are born, they’ve already acquired knowledge about language, food preferences, and emotions.

Nothing about gods, however.
True and that's survival instinct and basic reaction. There's no capacity to understand the concepts of the likes we're discussing here which is entirely the point.
 
So are we arguing for the term's aptness, or utility?
These terms are apt when applied to people who understand what they mean and the ramifications of them. If someone identifies as not believing in any deity or finding the likelihood of any utterly remote then I doubt most would be offended by the "atheist" label and the same would go in turn for theists. Okay, that's a real simplistic description and it's rather more nuanced than that but the underlying point is that these terms only hold any significance when actual understanding and conscious decision is involved.
 

ImmortalFlame

Woke gremlin
To me this only underlines the absurdity of ascribing any form of label to a newborn child. A baby has no concept of God, philosophy, politics, culture, sport etc. You could argue that a baby is A-anything but what's the point? There's no significance to it and such terminology is meaningless.
I wouldn't necessarily say it's meaningless. It serves to illustrate how disbelief needn't NECESSARILY require the taking of a conscious position. I mean, you wouldn't have this issue with describing a child as "small" just because they haven't had the ability to grow yet, or fitting them with the label "grumpy" despite them not grasping the full emotional range. I just think it's an accurate descriptor, but it needn't have much meaning beyond the simple illustration of "an atheist isn't a hard-line position, but broadly defined it can be anybody who doesn't specifically hold a belief in a God concept".

I think it's meaningless only if we are debating the validity of the REASONS people are or aren't atheist, because, obviously, once you can produce a reason for it you obviously don't fall into the same broad category of atheist that babies do (unless, of course, you want to go on some extreme Socratic dialogue, which does seem to illustrate the point better than pointing out that babies are atheist).

I guess I just don't really feel the term "atheist" is specific or attached with enough emotion that I have a particular issue with saying that the term accurately describes a state that exists pre-awareness of a God, so I don't have any particular issue with describing children as atheists unless it's for the sake of some terrible argument like "atheism is valid BECAUSE babies are atheists" or some variation.
 

Heyo

Veteran Member
I wouldn't necessarily say it's meaningless. It serves to illustrate how disbelief needn't NECESSARILY require the taking of a conscious position.
It is simply a problem of taxonomy and the question whether there are more than two possible answers to a yes/no question.
If you are going to separate a group into two classes and your question for that is "do you believe in one or more intervening gods?" than you get the theists on the one side and the atheists on the other and everyone is either the first or the second and nobody is both.
 

Evangelicalhumanist

"Truth" isn't a thing...
Premium Member
Nor is it in any way developed to understand concepts that as adults we can converse about with complete understanding.
You are so wedded to this you can't even just answer the obvious without trying to obfuscate. Is a theist somebody who believes in god(s)? Yes. Does a baby believe in god(s)? No. Does a baby believe -- no KNOW -- that suckling on its mother's breast will yield needed nourishment? Yes. That baby knows what the breast is for. It doesn't need training or conceptualizations.
 

Mock Turtle

Oh my, did I say that!
Premium Member
As I have mentioned before, babies do tend to have a God figure - usually their mother and being so dependent upon her for so much - given that she means everything to a baby for the first few years of their life, and more, and given such, they will possibly have been primed to accept the God concept anyway. But I don't think it is a natural concept to just form on its own.
 
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