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I'm an atheist, OK? - Comments

Dr. Strangegod's Avatar Comment 1 by Dr. Strangegod

Right off the bat, I'll say this: "An atheist believes there is no God." Wrong. An atheist thinks there is no God. Thinking is different than believing. Believing is one way of thinking, one that we explicitly reject. If the author wants to be the arbiter of precise language use and word definition, he should start there. Now I'll read the rest.

Alright, the rest of that was pretty good. Later I'll have to find the definition scale of shades of nonbelief that I pained over some time ago. It ain't perfect, but it's better than "fuzzy", that's for sure.

Mon, 18 May 2009 10:09:00 UTC | #361352

MUNRO1's Avatar Comment 2 by MUNRO1

Clever little article.

I would say my view of an agnostic ( as an atheist ) is some one who thinks the question of god just cant be proved either way and we with our mammalian brains are just not going to get it. I like the way Dawkins himself put when he said as a scientist we are always open to new evidence and the possibilities of all sorts of things. He is as sure about the absence of god, as he is of fairies !!

Mon, 18 May 2009 10:14:00 UTC | #361355

iztok's Avatar Comment 3 by iztok

"An atheist believes there is no God"

I disagree. I consider myself an atheist but I would define as: "An atheist doesn't believe there is God"

Mon, 18 May 2009 10:20:00 UTC | #361356

crookedshoes's Avatar Comment 5 by crookedshoes

I think that the absence of a PERSONAL god defines an atheist. 100% (or 99.99%) sure that there is no eye in the sky watching, counting sins. However, open to the "settings of the universe" type of thinking...

Mon, 18 May 2009 10:22:00 UTC | #361358

Glacian's Avatar Comment 4 by Glacian

This guy has it right. George Smith's "Atheism: The Case Against God" lays these distinctions out very clearly. This is only an issue because Christians have a vested interest in misrepresenting the atheist position so it's easier to criticize. They seem so committed to this mischaracterization I suspect many of them actually believe it, and think we atheists who say otherwise are somehow confused or lying about our positions.

Lucas, I think your distinction between "thinking" and "believing" is confusing and unnecessary. I find it better to distinguish between certainty or knowledge claims, and belief. The theist characterizes the atheist as claiming to know, or to be certain, that there is no God, while the atheist says that their position is that they don't believe there is a god, and some may say they believe that there isn't one (i.e. the distinction we make between "positive" and "negative" atheism, neither of which is what theists present atheism as).

Theists will ignore this point and continue to insist we claim certainty about the nonexistence of gods.

Mon, 18 May 2009 10:22:00 UTC | #361357

clodhopper's Avatar Comment 6 by clodhopper

I don't give a toss. I am ignostic.

Mon, 18 May 2009 10:23:00 UTC | #361359

Dr. Strangegod's Avatar Comment 8 by Dr. Strangegod

wlg, I'm not confusing them, they are the same. To believe something is to have faith in it, regardless of or in spite of facts. "Think" to me means very generally to use the brain's cognitive functions. This would put emotions in a seperate category. Reason and belief are two different ways of thinking. Belief isn't entirely useless, but atheists and scientists tend to opt for reason in most cases. Most of the time religious people say they "think" something, they in fact only believe it, or worse, have very strong emotions about it. Belief is a highly emotion-driven way of thinking, to the degree that it almost doesn't qualify as thought at all. I think the universe is infinite, but I believe there are giant space gods shaped like whales. One is a reasonable thought, the other is a belief that just makes me feel better. Distinguishing between the two is the important thing.

Maybe that is crude and oversimplified, but that's the way I see it. Dig the avatar by the way.

Mon, 18 May 2009 10:26:00 UTC | #361362

brian_d_w's Avatar Comment 7 by brian_d_w

iztok is right on, If you don't believe in a personal god then you are an atheist by definition. I like Hitchens stance that he is an atheist and an anti-theist. The god squad likes to call all openly atheists anti-theists as well.

Mon, 18 May 2009 10:26:00 UTC | #361361

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 9 by Steve Zara

Comment #378296 by clodhopper

I am very happy to see the term spreading.

Politically, I am a New Atheist. But really I am ignostic/igtheistic. I don't even assume that the territory on which theism is defined exists.

Mon, 18 May 2009 10:31:00 UTC | #361364

bitbutter's Avatar Comment 10 by bitbutter

#378294 by Glacian

Lucas, I think your distinction between "thinking" and "believing" is confusing and unnecessary.


#378299 by Lucas
To believe something is to have faith in it, regardless of or in spite of facts.

Have you just make that up? Dictionaries include no shortage of much less restrictive definitions of 'believe', reflecting how people actually use the word.

Mon, 18 May 2009 10:36:00 UTC | #361366

clodhopper's Avatar Comment 11 by clodhopper

Comment #378302 by Steve Zara

Yes, the argument produces vast quantities of hot air for very little (if any) gain.

Ignosticism cuts out a lot of futile arguamentation leaving more time for nice cups of tea IMO.

Mon, 18 May 2009 10:37:00 UTC | #361367

Bad Bishop's Avatar Comment 12 by Bad Bishop

My own definition of an agnostic is someone who doesn't care enough about the issue to give it any thought or simply wants to steer clear of any debate by avoiding the term atheist. For some reason don't mind agnostics as much as atheists.

Mon, 18 May 2009 10:41:00 UTC | #361368

somersetsimon's Avatar Comment 13 by somersetsimon

Theist version: An atheist is certain there is no God, an agnostic is not certain.

Atheist version: An atheist believes there is no God, an agnostic doesn't know.

I think (believe?) that even this author has it the wrong way round. Rather than say "An atheist believes there is no God", I'd put it that "An atheist doesn't believe there is a God"

There's a subtle difference. To me, the second one implies that there is a lack of belief in something, rather than a positive belief in something (in this case, "the lack of a god"). This leaves open the potential to be both agnostic and atheist. I can't say definitely that I know there is no god, but I certainly don't believe in one!

I'm just trying to be logically consistent, although, by my definitions, a theist should also logically be an agnostic, as they don't know, but they do believe.

If asked, I'll always say I'm an atheist, but if I get into a discussion, I'll add that technically I'm an agnostic as well.

Mon, 18 May 2009 10:57:00 UTC | #361379

Danish's Avatar Comment 14 by Danish

Religious people are masters of logical fallacies. Sometimes out of ignorance, sometimes out of dishonesty. This is just one example. The fallacy of equivocation, as I believe this one is called, has mainly the purpose of avoiding any real debate.

It is very similar to how they will sometimes spend a lot of time convincing others (and themselves) that atheism is a religion. Their arguments may even be internally consistent. But they still have not proved anything about the actual arguments made by their opponents.

I think it's a fine article. It will do little to stop theists from using this kind of dishonest rhetoric. But it may help atheists identify such logical fallacies easier and not be trapped into meaningless debates.

Mon, 18 May 2009 11:03:00 UTC | #361382

Wosret's Avatar Comment 15 by Wosret

I'm certain that the christian god is make-believe. I'm as certain of this as I am that Santa Claus is make-believe.

Mon, 18 May 2009 11:06:00 UTC | #361384

clodhopper's Avatar Comment 16 by clodhopper

Politically, there is tendency to take action now rather than spend time splitting hairs over words. I think this is to be welcomed; for all that god may be a meaningless term, the concept of it and it's effects on society are by no means meaningless. If you are satisfied that it is damaging to society, then you have to act. For whatever flaws it has, new atheism is at least doing that.

Mon, 18 May 2009 11:12:00 UTC | #361387

Prankster's Avatar Comment 17 by Prankster

I'm not sure where I stand now.....

I don't like religion of any types. I "believe" (there's that word again), that theres no god or gods. Am I agnostic 'cause the proof can't be found or given for his existence?

I state my religious views as atheist, if asked by religious people. Agnostic to me is more like a philosophical position than a "belief". Like some previous posters have said the terms seem mutually exclusive.

I don't know.....I seem to be having a crisis of "non-faith"

Mon, 18 May 2009 11:22:00 UTC | #361391

isaone's Avatar Comment 18 by isaone

Nope he (and most) have it wrong. An Atheist lacks (is without) any belief in God(s). Such a person can be Gnostic about it (he knows there is none) or Agnostic (he does not know for certain but chooses to not believe (this is the case for the vast majority of Atheists including Mr. Dawkins)) . A person who "Doesn't know" clearly lacks the belief in God(s) and thus is an Atheist.

Mon, 18 May 2009 11:23:00 UTC | #361392

OmegaBaby's Avatar Comment 19 by OmegaBaby

Theist version: An atheist is certain there is no God, an agnostic is not certain.

Atheist version: An atheist believes there is no God, an agnostic doesn't know.

Wait....when you say the 'Atheist version', do you mean the Theist definition of an Atheist, or the Atheist definition of an Atheist?

Mon, 18 May 2009 11:29:00 UTC | #361397

clodhopper's Avatar Comment 21 by clodhopper

For to be certain that there is no god you have to know what god is so that you can be certain that there isn't one. no?

Mon, 18 May 2009 11:33:00 UTC | #361401

Prankster's Avatar Comment 20 by Prankster


That's that cleared up then. Many thanks. It seems my crisis is now over.

Mon, 18 May 2009 11:33:00 UTC | #361400

Oystein Elgaroy's Avatar Comment 22 by Oystein Elgaroy

I guess what I would call myself is relative to the given variant of the god hypothesis. For a supernatural god outside space and time I think Steve's ignosticism is appropriate. For such a god the statement "God exists" is not capable of being true or false. It is simply meaningless. Gods that are in space and time, like Odin, Zeus and the OT version of Jahve are at least possible to conceive of as existing. But we have strong evidence against their existence, so with regards to them I would call myself a positive atheist (as opposed to negative atheism which is the position that there is no evidence for the existence of gods).

Mon, 18 May 2009 11:35:00 UTC | #361402

PaulJ's Avatar Comment 24 by PaulJ

tuxedobyrd (Comment #378327) has it right, the terms are not mutually exclusive.

I describe myself as an atheist because I lack belief in a god or gods. To answer the question about why we should have a word that defines something we're not - when we don't use "afairyist" for example - we don't live in a world where a majority of people believe in fairies, so there's no need for a term of distinction from them, whereas we do live in a world where the majority believe in some kind of deity.

I don't use the term "agnostic" even though it accurately describes my less than 100% conviction that there are no gods, because most people misunderstand the word.

Mon, 18 May 2009 11:38:00 UTC | #361405

Quine's Avatar Comment 23 by Quine

I simply tell people that I am "not a person of faith." I never use the big "G" deity word if I can avoid it, because it has hijacked the language to give instantiation even before the question of belief gets started. The question of existence can usually be cut down to size by questioning the validity of the myths upon which these invisible friends are based.

Mon, 18 May 2009 11:38:00 UTC | #361404

Bart B. Van Bockstaele's Avatar Comment 25 by Bart B. Van Bockstaele

Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but it is my opinion that the author does not understand what an atheist is.

For me, an atheist is not someone who believes there is no God. An atheist is someone who does not believe there is a God. That difference is neither difficult to understand, nor is it subtle, and it is fundamental.

Furthermore, the theists more often than not interpret agnostics as people who actually believe in a god but are afraid to admit it.

Mon, 18 May 2009 11:57:00 UTC | #361408

clodhopper's Avatar Comment 26 by clodhopper

Comment #378349 by tuxedobyrd
If your brain did not have a working model of the world to work from (albeing a simulation) you would die. Pragmatically I don't see how you can thus be agnostic about everything though intellectually it is perfectly possible.

Mon, 18 May 2009 11:59:00 UTC | #361409

KRKBAB's Avatar Comment 27 by KRKBAB

Although it's fun to talk about different definitions, I think (know?) that an Atheist is someone who is not a Theist. If a Theist is a person who has a belief in ANY Diety (s) then doesn't it follow that an Atheist os a person who doesn't have ANY belief in a Diety (s)? I think it's that simple, but I'm often wrong so maybe maybe I'm wrong on this too.

Mon, 18 May 2009 12:16:00 UTC | #361416

KRKBAB's Avatar Comment 28 by KRKBAB


Mon, 18 May 2009 12:20:00 UTC | #361420

KRKBAB's Avatar Comment 29 by KRKBAB

Another distinction I've heard is that there's a difference between "believing there is no god" and "having no belief in god", the latter describing the Atheist.

Mon, 18 May 2009 12:24:00 UTC | #361421

NewEnglandBob's Avatar Comment 30 by NewEnglandBob

I prefer the definition by #23 isaone:

An Atheist lacks (is without) any belief in God(s).

because the way I see it is: theist - believes in god(s) and the prefix a- negates that.

Steve Zara's 'ignostic' is too complex for many theists to comprehend. They usually do not understand logic and reason, so they have little chance of understanding the meaninglessness of the question of the existence of god(s).

Mon, 18 May 2009 12:33:00 UTC | #361423