Who’s Lacking?


Well the old “atheism is a lack of belief” line was trotted out again recently, and sadly it was by an atheist. I really can’t stand that phrase, and it’s a definition that theists have tried to yoke us with for a LONG time. So long in fact that most atheists blindly accept it without thought. Well that’s a huge mistake, and the reason is that word “lack”. Let’s examine what it means.

TheFreeDictionary.com:
lack
1. Deficiency or absence
2. A particular deficiency or absence
v. lacked, lack·ing, lacks
v.tr.
To be without or in need of
v.intr.
1. To be missing or deficient
2. To be in need of something

Merriam-Webster:
lack
1 : to be deficient or missing

Answers.com:
lacking:
1. Lacking an essential element: defective, deficient, incomplete, wanting.
2. Deficient in a usual or needed amount: absent, wanting. See excess/insufficiency/enough.
Not having a desirable element

Deficiency, to be in need of, defective, incomplete, wanting, not having a desired element – are these the things that reflect your relation to god belief? Are we deficient? Do we desire god belief? Do we wish for it? Well I certainly hope not. For those of us who never had it, I can’t say we’ve missed out on something great. I’d say it’s like missing out on getting hepatitis or crabs. For those of you who’ve gotten over your god belief, are you worse off now? Do you feel short of something now? Do you long for the days of delusion? Once again, I hope not.

If we’re going to say anyone is lacking, I’d say it’s the theist, not the atheist. The theist lacks a firm grip on reality, intellectual honesty, quite possibly empathy, and judging by postings online, I’d say the ability to spell or turn off their caps lock keys. What I’ve suggested as a more appropriate definition is:

atheism: the rejection of claims for the existence of a god or gods for lack of evidence

Short, sweet, and to the point. Implied is the scientific method, the process by which we, through evidence and experience, make rational decisions about the world around us. We’re not going to take a claim on just faith, and we won’t take an argument alone for something’s existence, we require evidence. After all, you can’t argue something into existence.

So feel free to use my definition, or if you can find a better one, go for it, but I urge you all to stop using “lack of belief”. Don’t allow yourself to be defined by theists. It’s not like they have our best interest at heart.

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106 Responses to “Who’s Lacking?”

  1. Good post. When you wrote (or commented?) about this in the past, I had to admit to myself that I'd been blindly using "lack of belief" all my life. Of course you were dead-on right. So I was inspired to adopt a definition that addressed our concerns, and I've been using it for myself ever since then: "atheism" is a freedom from faith. It also yields a handy adjective: faith-free. The hidden bonus in that definition is it equates "freedom" with "atheism," which drives the fundies fucknuts.Still, no matter what definition an atheist uses, I don't get how this is possible. (A recent Pew Forum survey found that 21% of "atheists" believe in god.)Auggggh!

  2. That certainly does have a more American ring to it, and is less of a mouthful. It also breathes new life into a lot of the old freedom quotes.As for that 21%, I guess the old definition holds for them. They do feel they're lacking something. I'd say it was common sense though.

  3. I guess it's one of those mysterious ways that god works in, making some of his followers identify themselves as atheists.But maybe JP used to fit into that category?

  4. I agree that "lack" is a very unsatisfactory term, having connotations of wistful yearning for what one lacks. I like Ex's suggestion. You could also use the term "Absence of belief". That could work well both for something that was never there, and for something one successfully sheds.

  5. How about atheism being the acceptance of the world without gods (without the supernatural, without vampires, fairies, werewolves, garden gnomes, ghosts, et al)?

  6. I fear that one is problematic Grumpy, for it defines atheism as a choice without any basis for the choice. SI's is neutral, merely pointing out a state of being.Ex's is subtly not neutral for if you're free from something, the implication is that something must be bad.

  7. I'm with Philly on this. Any definition that includes the words "lack," "absence," "not," "without" has a negative built into it, the sense that something is missing which (by implication) is expected to be there — or, worse, should be there.I think we should drum home the idea that atheism is the natural default position. So we're never not or lacking anything. Theists have chosen to abandon a part of their "god-given" nature — namely, reason. They do not trust their god's original creation of Man, and insist on tampering with his formula by cutting religious ruts into their brains that he didn't put there.So: if you're not faith-free, you are acting in opposition to god's plan. There's a pretty paradox.

  8. A big part of the problem is with terms like a-theist and non-believer. They set up theism and belief as default positions, so that those who don't fit the default positions must still define themselves in relation to those positions. We need completely independent terms to describe the states of atheism, nonbelief, etc. Maybe Ex can come up with something snazzy.

  9. I agree "absence" could be seen negatively, but is a far cry from "lacking". I would think the religious response to your idea Ex would be that people are designed with the capability to be believers, and that eventually everyone can and should believe. This would support both their defining of atheism as lacking and their notion of being "born again" perhaps. Just as we have the choice to be bad or good, we have the choice to believe or not, and god designs us like that because he's a needy drama queen who needs to know if we REALLY love him (and of course if we don't, we'll burn for all eternity).Alright, I probably didn't paraphrase their beliefs too kindly, but I think I've captured the general idea of them.I would agree that atheism should be considered a default if you subscribe to our mental default being a tabula rasa. If not, then it could not be if you go god gene or some Jungian collective unconscious. Of course if you subscribe to tabula rasa, then SI's definition may be more appropriate for yours and ours relies on the existence of theism.

  10. Well that would have saved me some time had I read Chaplain's post first instead of getting to her point the hard way there at the end.

  11. Maybe Ex can come up with something snazzy.How about snazzist?

  12. Now that I've published my comment and have actually looked at snazzist in print, I think it opens up the door for us to be accused of being Nazis, at least by those millions of Christians who can't spell. Christian: Yeah, they're nazzis even though they try to hide it. Just look at what they call themselves. That proves it.How about freeists?

  13. That works. Very nice.

  14. I'm Woofree.

  15. I love Woofree – that might end up being the name of my firstborn child. What about "pro-thought"? Or maybe "pro-reality".

  16. I like "pro-reality." Then we could define theism as "the lack of reality."

  17. OK. So we're ProRealists. A lot better than Brights. Now, how do we get the word out?

  18. The precedent has already been set by someone in the Bush administration. I can't remember who it was, but remember the comment about the "reality based community"? The Center For Inquiry harps on that all the time with the great tag line, "Who knew reality needed defending?"So yes, I'd say we're all ProRealists, and faith-free.

  19. Spanish Inquisitor:You tell me, Mr 100,000 Hits! I'll blog about it if you will…

  20. I just came across this quote today:Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away. -Philip K. Dick

  21. Hypothetical Christian: Well I'm a ProRealist, too. But my reality is so much greater than yours. Your only reality is what you can experience with your puny human senses. I have the reality of Jesus, which is much more real than anything you can see, hear, taste, smell, or touch. I pity you guys for not really knowing the real reality.Yeah, I know that the above is not an exact replica of what we'd read, because I spelled everything correctly and added no extraneous capitals and punctuation marks. Sorry.But, thinking it through, I'm not excited about ProRealist.

  22. OK. Back to square one. What exactly is the problem with the English language here? Why is "Bright" the only word suggested? There must be something? Maybe we should use another language – Sanskrit or something. Can one speak Sanskrit?

  23. I find "Bright" to be obnoxious, and "Dim" is worse. I would prefer a neutral statement of fact which is successful in its own right and not directly at the expense of others. My original definition and Ex's "freedom from faith" are predicated on denigrating a bad idea, not people. If some people fail to see that idea as bad, they may well be "dim", but that's for others to decide.

  24. Maybe whatever we call ourselves is fine. Maybe definitions (as long as they are reasonable) don't really matter. Maybe when dealing with irrational thinking, we are just going to have to accept that they will always have an answer – just not a very good one. Not good enough for us woofree, pro-rationalist, free-thinking, Bright, atheists.

  25. I don't speak Sanskrit, but the Japanese word for an atheist is the rather excellent "mushinronsha."(A bright idea and 30 seconds of internet searching later)The Sanskrit is "Naastika". Bit close to "Nazi" and "swastika", if you ask me – we'd never hear the last of it…

  26. As always, these arguments are not meant for them, they're meant for us and moderates, more so the latter. It's the terms by which we are recognized by the moderates which does influence any ability to persuade them on anything. The right wing has understood this for years, framing their positions as "Pro-Life" and abortion as "murder", which is quite loaded terminology (ahem). Create such sentiment and imagery in people's minds and it colors their decision making.

  27. How about "faithfreeists," accent on the first syllable, which has the added bonus of rhyming with atheists.

  28. I'm liking that one, and it was just sitting there all this time, too.

  29. Faithfree vs. Faithfreeks

  30. Philly, I agree with you to the extent of the point of your post. I think it's important not to frame ourselves badly. Framing, for instance, in the negative is a really poor way for a rational thinker to approach the argument. I'm just saying that within reason any of these terms can be acceptable. I see nothing wrong with secularist, rationalist, reason-based, atheist, woofree, mushinronsha or faithfreeist. I can rationally defend any of them. But carry on. If you come up with the perfect descriptor, then I'll call myself that too!

  31. I like faithfreeist, and I especially like terms which naturally defend themselves, without any effort needed on my part. ;)

  32. I did a quick search for some imagery ideas for "faith free", but pretty much all I got was images of some buxom beauty named Faith freeing herself from the tyranny of clothing and sexual restraint, not that there's anything wrong with that. :) ~

  33. Nothing at all. Links please. For my research. Just trying to be a team player.

  34. Google "faith free", click images, and make sure your safefilter is off.Incidentally, I object to the term "safefilter", but that's another issue.

  35. I think that a suitable image of "faithfreeist" would be hard to come up with specifically because we're faithfreeists. You couldn't show any gods or bibles or woo of any kind in a way that implies we don't believe in them, because then we're back to the "lack" of something.Maybe just a big blank button? And if anyone asks what it stands for, we could say: "It's image-free."

  36. First of, I don’t see why you have such an issue with the world “lack”. When talking definitions, words definition can vary depending on the context. The dictionaries try to include most of the commonly used definitions but that doesn’t mean they all apply in every case (which I think is why they itemise them on a numbered list). I mean, my body lacks the smallpox virus but I'm pretty damn sure it’s not “deficient“ because of it :) Same with the definition of atheist, were “lack” just stands for something along the lines of “an absence of” with no implied emotion or "tone" on the matter.As for your own personal definition on the matter, I also disagree. I am myself an atheist, always have been. I have no belief in any supernatural matter, deities included. However, that doesn’t mean I outright “reject” such ideas as an impossibility. But even though I might technically not be able to prove or state absolutely that a god doesn’t exist, I still don’t believe in one myself.I also kind of chuckled a bit at the “Don't allow yourself to be defined by theists” part, as nearly every theist I’ve ever debated refused to accept the “lack of belief” definition of atheist in favour of a more, shall we say “militant” definition that they wanted to use :)

  37. My 2 cents FWIW.I tell others my atheism is a lack of faith, and by faith I mean belief without or despite evidence.As for a better term, IMO that's like asking why is "unshaven" the lack of something when it's the natural state for humans?I suspect that, if atheism were the norm, language would probably adapt quickly and someone would be normal or a "theist".

  38. You really define yourself Toby as lacking smallpox? Seriously?To anyone else, give me an example of where, in everyday speech, it's common to refer to our lack of something unwanted. As for being defined by theists, yes, the people online for the most part are confrontational, so they'll try to argue the "atheism means there's no god" definition, but most of mainstream theists patronizingly say things like "you'll come around" or "you'll see some day, maybe when you're older" or pull that "there are no atheists in foxholes" crap which is directly in line with the idea that we're merely lacking that belief that they have, but we'll get it someday hopefully.

  39. You really define yourself Toby as lacking smallpox? Seriously?Hehe, of course not. It was just a way to try and illustrate that to be without something (IE to lack it) isn't always a bad thing, despite the phrasing used.Not that I think theism alone is a "bad thing" per say, its just that when people try to turn that belief into a system/religion that things get seriously messed up.But then religion has never really been a big thing here, I mean I live in a country where only around 16% of the population say they believe in a personal god. which is directly in line with the idea that we're merely lacking that belief that they have, but we'll get it someday hopefully.Which is basically delusion. I'm not really a "nice guy" and I don't really see that changing. Even if I where to "find religion", I'd still be an asshole <_<Also, I took a look at your profile (not to spy or anything o_O, I just liked the blog so I got curious) and the very first line went:I'm a freethinking American living just outside Philadelphia who has faith in the founding principles of the US, in the potential of humanity and that the Kansas City Chiefs will once again win the Superbowl.Which kind of surprised me since you said you like the term "faithfreeist". Care to elaborate a bit?Also, I apoligize if my writing gets messed up, english isn't my native language.PS: You're blog takes a really long time to load for me it kind of freezes my web browser at times for like 10-15 seconds. I know its not my connection so I'm just wondering if I'm the only one getting this and if anyone knows how to fix it.

  40. Yes, the profile was originally written a bit tongue in cheek. I probably should reword that, especially if I want to be an elitist and call myself a "faithfreeist". The blog's sluggishness I feel is directly tied to Blogger, which sucks. I have been looking into moving to WordPress, but that'll take some work, which takes time, so I'll be stuck here for some time yet. I also plan on self hosting, so that should aid in the response time as well. Thanks for the patience.Your English Toby, btw, is quite fine. Most of the christians I encounter online, for whom English is their one and only language known, could not exhibit anything close to the spelling, punctuation or grammar you've so far exhibited. You also trump them on your ability to control your caps lock key. ;)

  41. @ Philly – echo the very last comment by Toby. Ever since you inserted that "explosion" (which, by the way, I don't see – I just know it's going on because the cursor goes nuts for about 3 seconds) it's been the slowest loading page I go to. I'm not complaining, because I was actually thinking yesterday that you have the nicest looking blog in the Atheosphere, IMO. As to the question about Philly's "faith", I think it's clear, though he can speak for himself. Sure he has "faith" in his sports team. That's EXACTLY what it is, because we support them and believe every year that there is a chance they'll be champions – but usually they aren't, and we know that. I have faith in the Constitution. I intellectually believe it's a great document for us to try to live by, and know that guys like Bush and Cheney can change it overnight.

  42. toby & JM:The problem with accepting atheist as a term describing our worldview is this. It implies that only one worldview is the norm (the theistic one) and the other is merely a deviation from it.That's why, in the U.S., we don't have the Republicans and the aRepublicans. (Maybe, that's not the best example, given our political situation.) OK: It's why, in a chess game, the two opponents are not white and awhite. Since Morales is here, I'll use an example from logic:When given (A or ~A), we're forced to judge everything by its A-ness, whether it's A or not. What Philly's saying here, with which I completely agree, is that we're fucking tired of being judged in terms of whether we're A or ~A. We're B, and proud of it.

  43. …and we were born B. Some of us were forcefully converted to A, but B is our default state.

  44. Then we should be A, A comes first, and they're B. I mean, there's already all that A merchandise from Dawkins.And yes, the little explosion does seem to be blowing Blogger's mind. Stupid Blogger. I'd suggest not using IE though. I think it has the worst time dealing with Blogger code, specifically the css stuff.

  45. Philly's right: we should be A. Theists are henceforth to be known as "afaithfreeists."

  46. As I told you, I took your Foxfire recommendation last month. I've used it pretty much exclusively ever since.I just tried it with IE for fun. It wasn't fun.

  47. Microsoft isn't fun.

  48. What explosions? I don't see no steekin' explosions.

  49. The problem with accepting atheist as a term describing our worldview is this. It implies that only one worldview is the norm (the theistic one) and the other is merely a deviation from it.Yes, I get that. But I doubt most theists even know the derivation of atheist, or that the a- prefix indicates negation. It's just a label to them.What I was trying to express is that I think that's just human nature; in any society, social norms are considered the default state and the language reflects this.So I agree with the sentiment, I just wanted to say that (a) it doesn't bother me (and presumably others) nearly as much as it appears to annoy you; and (b) I can't see this changing until society itself changes.I'm not trying to be a contrarian here, just pointing out what I see as reality.If I'm right, then changing the label won't change perceptions. As evidence, I offer that, though "homosexual" has succesfully overidden the old meaning of "gay", the change in terminology merely means that now "gay" has similar connotations that "homosexual" originally had, and the original term is seen as a crasser version of "gay".

  50. re the above

  51. The problem with accepting atheist as a term describing our worldview is this. It implies that only one worldview is the norm (the theistic one) and the other is merely a deviation from it.One could say the same thing about agnosticism. The "a" is simply a linguistic prefix implying absence of the term which follows and is not ment to be interpreted as a judging of standards and norms.Its just the way the language works.As I am a complete and utter grammar whore I tend to argue definitions ad infinitum, which really isn't very productive so I'll try to cut down on it..But my point is that people are to a large degree a product of their enviroment and upbringing and as such, some people tend to look at things from a "what I think" perspective rather then a basic "what it is", which is what I think some people do when arguing over religious definition. I tend to go with the basic literal translation of the word and it buggs me when people try to use them impropperly (such as people claiming they are aitheists but still say they believe in a god..).But I digress and my lunch hour is nearing its end so I gotta wrap it up here.<_<>_> You also trump them on your ability to control your caps lock key.LIES! ALL LIES!!!

  52. You know, I was telling my neighbor about that replacing "gay" with "homosexual". When I mentioned that the site does that, his reaction was, "well of course". I asked him and he said, "well 'homosexual' is worse". I don't understand that, but I guess that's a semantic investigation for another day.Toby, agnosticism IS about lacking, lacking knowledge of whether there is or isn't a god.

  53. Well yes I know that (definition junkie remember :P )What I ment was that what the Exterminator said could also be applied to agnosticism, IE to imply that gnosticism is considered the "norm" simply because of the "a" prefix on the term agnosticism (which I don't think is the case).

  54. Toby:I would never suggest that knowing anything is the norm. Certainly not in the U.S.A.

  55. …well 'homosexual' is worse. I don't understand that …Surely it's clear?An euphemism is used specifically because it's considered to be less "offensive" than the original term it replaces.But I guess you know that… I suppose you must mean you don't understand the perversity of human nature. I'm with you there.

  56. I suppose it depends on the euphemism. They could have replaced "gay" with some colorfully not so nice euphemisms. But yes, I can't understand the perverse hatred some people have for gays.

  57. I'm not sure why you get so worked up over this. Instead of looking up "lack" in the dicionary, it might have been more helpful to look up "atheism". Being basically a lazy bastard, I took the easy way out and went to dictionary.com. In what I thought amounted to a moment of supreme irony, the first thing I saw was a sponsored link that said, "Find Religion. Jesus loves you. http://www.jesus2020.com.&quot; Clearly dictionary.com needs to work on this. But I digress.The definition of "atheism" reads as follows: "1. the doctrine or belief that there is no God.2.disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings."As you can see, these are two subtly different definitions. As our mutual friend over at "The Bad Idea Blog" has noted, there is a fine but very real line between saying "I believe there is no God", and "I don't believe in God." The first is a statement about the universe, the second is a statement about one's self. In any event, whether one says one has no belief, a lack of belief, or an absence of belief, it all means the same thing, and it can't be construed as either a negative or a positive, except perhaps in the observer's own mind.The point here is that atheism, like religion, can take more than one form. Some atheists vigorously believe that there is no god. Others, like our friend Bad, simply don't believe. They have no belief of any kind, simply a lack of belief. This is not pejorative, merely an observation.The Pew study is interesting. I think one has to remember that the various labels used in the study are labels that the respondents gave to themselves, and depend for their accuracy upon the respondents' personal understanding of the labels involved.The 21% number is a little misleading (otherwise you'd have to conclude that there's a lot of really confused atheists out there, right?) The way they got the number is like this: 6% believe in a personal god, 12% believe god is an impersonal force, and 3% don't know. Those number add up to 21%. Now, having discussed this issue with many atheists (and theists, for that matter), I can understand how one can believe that god is an impersonal force, not believe in a personal god, and still consider oneself "atheist". As Carl Sagan pointed out, you don't worship the law of gravity. That 6% of atheists say they do believe in a personal god is somewhat more puzzling. All I can say is that they either didn't understand the question and/or terms involved, and/or the respondents reject the various dogmas and doctrines that characterize mainstream religion, and therefore still consider themselves atheists. Just my 2 cents worth. Hope my spelling, grammar, and punctuation are up to your standards. ;>)

  58. And you can control your caps lock key. Very impressive! ;) Obviously I disagree about there being no difference between no belief, absence of belief and lack of belief, and I'll throw in free of belief as well. The differences are not merely the subjective opinion of the observer but rather a directed opinion by language. I think what people are saying who find little or no problem with "lack of belief" is essentially that they don't care or don't mind it, which is different.As for dictionary definitions, some can get pretty interesting. I remember seeing interesting ones before like "denial of god", which is pretty laughable. A little milder is "lack of belief in god", then you evolve to that second definition you listed, "disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings." I still have issue on that one because it doesn't give a why. Because you don't like god? Perhaps because you had a bad day and blame god? Perhaps you just have faith in there being no god? See, without the why you open it up to all that nonsense which the unscrupulous religious folk (often the ones who are, let's say, keyboardally challenged) claim depicts what an atheist is in their attempts to caricature us for denigration and ridicule.Now of course the Pew study lends some credibility to those caricatures. Now on the podcast we discussed the irrationality that still may exist in atheists' lives, like belief in luck, psychics, ghosts, tarot and so on so to some degree the numbers don't freak me out as much as some. I know that some people are those caricatures, and some merely say they're atheists because they hate organized religion. Also, there are atheists who subscribe to things like reincarnation like in Buddhism or some cosmic force like in that silly Jedi religion. Now the kicking around of terms like "faithfreeist" is kind of just in fun, but I think perhaps there might be a term that's needed to distinguish the 79% of us who come to an atheist position responsibly from the 21% who are a bit nutty.

  59. It is not at all a matter of being defined by theists. Atheism refers to the lack of theistic belief. If we want to broaden the definition, we can do so at the risk of alienating those who would not share whatever ingredients we decide to include. For me, it simply works better to say, "I am an atheist. Now let me tell you what I do believe…"

  60. This article is doing the equivalent of complaining that 'lack of disease' is an unfair and pejorative definition of 'healthy'. It also buys into the notion that 'belief' is necessarily good – a ridiculous idea in a world were belief in alternative medicine robs untold numbers of victims of both money and health.

  61. Actually no, this article does none of what you're accusing it of. Your analogy would only work IF there was a majority of the population that was diseased, being diseased was generally considered a good thing, and the diseased perpetually denigrated the healthy and did what it could to force them to become diseased like them.Of course no one in their right mind calls being healthy a "lack of disease", because no one says they lack something negative, which was my point. "Lack" is only used with positives, not negatives, so saying you lack belief implies belief is good, not my objecting to the usage. Here, try these on:I lack ignoranceI lack insanityI lack fatI lack debtI lack injuryMake sense? No. Why? No one says they lack a negative. Now try these:I lack knowledgeI lack patienceI lack moneyI lack strengthI lack health insuranceSound more natural, don't they? That's because they're all positives, and that's how we use the word "lack" in English, to signify a deficiency.

  62. vjack said:Atheism refers to the lack of theistic belief.Exactly Philly's point. Do you feel as if you lack something you should have?I hope you can see that atheist is merely a way of saying "not a theist." That's like defining all foods as either sandwiches or not sandwiches.Waiter: And what would you like, sir?vjack: I'd like a not-sandwich, please.Doesn't work too well in a decent restaurant, does it?

  63. And you can control your caps lock key. Very impressive! ;) I try. I can't have you thinking that all theists are complete morons, now can I? ;) Obviously I disagree about there being no difference between no belief, absence of belief and lack of belief, and I'll throw in free of belief as well. The differences are not merely the subjective opinion of the observer but rather a directed opinion by language. I think what people are saying who find little or no problem with "lack of belief" is essentially that they don't care or don't mind it, which is different.Interesting point. I agree, up to a point. "Lack" and "absence" superficially mean the same thing, but the all important connotations are quite different. "Lack" implies something about an invidual, while "absense" implies a more general state of things. I might say "I lack financial security", and the implication is not only do I not have it, but I wish I did. But it is also possible to lack something, and be glad of its absense. I can say, "I lack murderous instincts", and it can be inferred that I am either glad of that.You say you see "lack of belief" as a perjorative, but in doing so you beg the question: is religious faith something that one would regret not having in the first place? Since we already know that an atheist's answer would be no, then from that perspective "lack of faith" can be interpreted as a positive attribute.As for dictionary definitions, some can get pretty interesting. I remember seeing interesting ones before like "denial of god", which is pretty laughable. Which in turn begs the question: does god exist? You can't deny something that you don't believe exists in the first place (remember the guy on Bad's blog who claimed that Bad "hated" god?). I don't believe in Thor. I guess that makes me an "athorist". But I don't actively "deny" Thor's existence because it's just not important to me.A little milder is "lack of belief in god", then you evolve to that second definition you listed, "disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings." I still have issue on that one because it doesn't give a why. But for the purposes of that definition, and for this discussion, it really doesn't matter why. The one thing that all atheists have in common (the Pew study notwithstanding) is an absence of belief in god (absence being the most neutral word I can think of), just as the one thing all theists have in common is a belief in god. Naturally, both sides see their position as the "default" one. Hmmmmm.That said, there are lots of reasons why one might not believe in god, just as there are many reasons why one might. Just so there's no misunderstanding, I hasten to add that in stating this I'm not referring to various "proofs" one way or the other, I'm simply talking about things like point of view and environment. The point here is that you can't just put the entire population into two camps, "theist" and "atheist", and expect to understand the wide range of thought that both camps bring to the table.Because you don't like god? Perhaps because you had a bad day and blame god? Perhaps you just have faith in there being no god? See, without the why you open it up to all that nonsense which the unscrupulous religious folk (often the ones who are, let's say, keyboardally challenged) claim depicts what an atheist is in their attempts to caricature us for denigration and ridicule.Wellllll, from what I've seen, the denigration and ridicule seem to flow pretty freely both ways. ;) I never could understand how anyone ever came to the conclusion that insulting your adversary was a good way to bring them around to your way of thinking, and this applies to both theists and atheists alike. I mean, I enjoy Pat Condell, but let's be realistic here: as entertaining, and even as insightful as he at times is, he's not going to convince anyone except other atheists with his approach, although I strongly suspect he really doesn't give a shit about convincing anyone of anything as long as he's allowed to rant. In some ways I admire the guy, but I do sometimes wonder how he's managed to live this long. Big Muslim population in England, you know.But I digress.I suppose the question I would ask you here is: do you feel like you HAVE to answer the question, "why?" Do you feel you have to justify your atheism? I don't think so. While it is true that I do believe in a god (I'm more of a Deist than anything, but that's a topic for another thread), that's a personal choice, and I don't go around making it everyone else's problem. I have no problem with those who do not believe in a god. Many of their arguments (especially about fundamentalism) make a lot of sense. My only problem is with those who try to force their beliefs/opinions/worldviews down my throat, and that goes for atheists and fundamentalists alike. I hasten to add that I don't believe that's what you're doing here, just making the point in general.Now of course the Pew study lends some credibility to those caricatures. Now on the podcast we discussed the irrationality that still may exist in atheists' lives, like belief in luck, psychics, ghosts, tarot and so on so to some degree the numbers don't freak me out as much as some. I know that some people are those caricatures, and some merely say they're atheists because they hate organized religion. I sometimes wonder how many of the respondants to that study actually had the foggiest idea what they were actually answering. And in any event, I'm sure you'll agree that just because one is an atheist doesn't mean that one is automatically rational. ;) .Also, there are atheists who subscribe to things like reincarnation like in Buddhism or some cosmic force like in that silly Jedi religion. Now the kicking around of terms like "faithfreeist" is kind of just in fun, but I think perhaps there might be a term that's needed to distinguish the 79% of us who come to an atheist position responsibly from the 21% who are a bit nutty.All I can say here is that I believe (there's that word again) that one can reject orthodox religion, even reject the conventional definitions of "god", and still have room in one's world view for the existence of a, for lack a better term, "spiritual world". I almost hate to use that term, because I'm sure it conjures up all kinds of negative connotations in your mind. But unless one really believes that all that exists is readily apparant to our five senses, and that anything which is not cannot exist, then I suppose one has to leave the door open just a crack to allow of the possibilty of the existence of, well, you decide……………………;)-smith

  64. First, you bring up an important point with "is religious faith something that one would regret not having in the first place? Since we already know that an atheist's answer would be no, then from that perspective "lack of faith" can be interpreted as a positive attribute." Largely, the issue is not with us, but with others. "Lack of belief" colors the perception of those on the outside. My objection is to encouraging that. What I hear from atheists who don't care about the "lacking" part is it doesn't bother them personally. Well it's not about you, its about us as a whole and how we're perceived and labeled. Realistically, there are two camps, believer or not. To truly be honest, we all have to say we're agnostics because we don't KNOW if there's a god or not. Those who identify themselves as agnostics though, imo, are more like apatheists. They're just too apathetic to consider the issue. Those who do and who hold the door wide open for this god thing are essentially theists. In contrast, an atheist doesn't hold the door open, but doesn't lock it either. ;) I personally find no connection between justifying my atheism and "making it everyone else's problem". I think the "militant" atheism often referred to by the religious is a frustrated reaction to the VERY militant, oppressive religious intrusions into all of our lives for a very long time. The rise of the religious right in the US has fanned a huge flame. As their own book says, you reap what you sow". Now I'm willing to bet that many of my objections to the impositions and trespasses by the religious in this country are what you'd call trying to force things down your throat. Like it or not, there's supposed to be this thing called the separation of church and state, only the religious have crossed that line since it was first drawn. Now I don't care how long a violation has been permitted to exist. Time doesn't magically make wrongs into rights. As for "spiritual world" or anything else like that, all I can ask is what's the point? Seriously, what's the point? Ultimately, I think all of the arguments between atheists and theists boil down to that. Theists often ask, "why do you bother with blogs and podcasts if you don't believe?" If it were a simple matter of belief being as inconsequential as choosing red or blue, it wouldn't be worth the time probably, but as I pointed out above, there are numerous impositions and trespasses upon my life and the lives of others in this country and around the world because of belief, and that's the point. So I ask, what's the point of believing in or holding out possibilities for a spiritual world? What are you going to do with that? If it's just to amuse yourself, so be it. Btw, I doubt if Pat is looking to covert anyone, although I do think he's tried to convince people about the nonsense of giving in to religious nonsense, especially muslim bullying. There's a lot of politically correct nonsense going on in Europe. Ironically, that won't happen here because of the strong disdain christians have for muslims in the US. That's one point atheists and christians can agree on, which will last until they get their panties in a twist about a movie, a tv show, a song, a billboard or a couple of gays. Atheists reject muslim bullshit because its bullshit. Christians reject muslim bullshit because its not their brand of bullshit.

  65. First, you bring up an important point with "is religious faith something that one would regret not having in the first place? Since we already know that an atheist's answer would be no, then from that perspective "lack of faith" can be interpreted as a positive attribute." Largely, the issue is not with us, but with others. "Lack of belief" colors the perception of those on the outside. My objection is to encouraging that. What I hear from atheists who don't care about the "lacking" part is it doesn't bother them personally. Well it's not about you, its about us as a whole and how we're perceived and labeled.Maybe you just need a good PR firm. ;) Realistically, there are two camps, believer or not. To truly be honest, we all have to say we're agnostics because we don't KNOW if there's a god or not. Those who identify themselves as agnostics though, imo, are more like apatheists. They're just too apathetic to consider the issue. Those who do and who hold the door wide open for this god thing are essentially theists. In contrast, an atheist doesn't hold the door open, but doesn't lock it either. ;) And then there are some, like myself, who leave the door open just a crack or so. ;) As far as the "apatheist" label goes, there are many folks who, while falling (by definition) into theist/atheist categories, simply don't define themselves by their theism/atheism. Our friend Bad is such a one. So am I, for that matter. Technically I'm a theist. But in truth my "theism" is really just one part of my life, and a fairly small one at that. I don't define myself by my theism.Now I suspect, from the various atheist blogs that I've visited, that some, perhaps many, atheists do define themselves by their atheism, which in turn transforms–or at least appears to transform–atheism into a "cause" of sorts, and then seem astonished when theists say something like, "See? Atheism is a religion!". Now I know this is rubbish, but perhaps you can see how this viewpoint takes root.So it occurs to me that perhaps you're being a little hard on some of your atheist brethren here. Just a thought. ;) I personally find no connection between justifying my atheism and "making it everyone else's problem". Nor do I. I'm sorry if I gave that impression. It's just that I got the impression that you felt the need to justify your atheism, and what I'm saying is you don't. Of course, I don't know you personally, and I could be all wet on this one. I think the "militant" atheism often referred to by the religious is a frustrated reaction to the VERY militant, oppressive religious intrusions into all of our lives for a very long time. The rise of the religious right in the US has fanned a huge flame. As their own book says, you reap what you sow". I would agree with that. They are an irksome lot. And they have become emboldened under the farcical administration of President Nitwit. I desperately want to believe that the next president, whoever he is, is going to be an improvement.Now I'm willing to bet that many of my objections to the impositions and trespasses by the religious in this country are what you'd call trying to force things down your throat. Not at all. To the extent you or anyone else wants to take shots at religious extremists, I'm with you all the way. Being told that I'm deluded just for the simple act of believing in god gets under my skin a little bit, I suppose. But what I've generally found is that most atheists don't really seem to have a problem with belief qua belief; it's the odious things done in the name of religion that gets them all fired up. Like it or not, there's supposed to be this thing called the separation of church and state, only the religious have crossed that line since it was first drawn. Now I don't care how long a violation has been permitted to exist. Time doesn't magically make wrongs into rights.Pat Condell said something in one of his videos that made me an instant fan: "My freedom is more important than your faith." More on him later.As for "spiritual world" or anything else like that, all I can ask is what's the point? Seriously, what's the point? Ultimately, I think all of the arguments between atheists and theists boil down to that. Theists often ask, "why do you bother with blogs and podcasts if you don't believe?" If it were a simple matter of belief being as inconsequential as choosing red or blue, it wouldn't be worth the time probably, but as I pointed out above, there are numerous impositions and trespasses upon my life and the lives of others in this country and around the world because of belief, and that's the point. So I ask, what's the point of believing in or holding out possibilities for a spiritual world? What are you going to do with that? If it's just to amuse yourself, so be it.Well, you're really bringing up two different issues here. As I stated before, to whatever extent someone's expression of their religious beliefs impinges upon your rights, then you have every right to push back.As for "what's the point?", I'm not entirely sure there is a point, at least not in the sense you mean. I believe in a god because a universe created by something makes more sense to me than a universe that just happened through a series of happy yet highly unlikely (even Dawkins admits this) coincidences. This is not to say I buy into the "God of the gaps" business. I have no doubt that theories like evolution and big bang accurately explain things, and I further believe that science, not religion, has taught us and will continue to teach us what we know about the physical universe. And I agree that there is very fine line between attempting to deduce a supreme being from the nature of the universe and simply throwing up your hands and just saying "god did it". But I also believe that the discoveries of science and the idea of god are not mutually exclusive. As Carl Sagan once wrote, “A religion, old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the Universe as revealed by modern science might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths.” My point here is that this is simply my point of view. I express it, but do not insist that anyone else buy into it. It's just how I see things. And if I'm wrong, I'm wrong. With my dying breath, as I realize that this really is it, my second to last thought will probably be: "Mauriello was right after all. Damn." My very last thought will be that I wish I had spent less time on the internet.Btw, I doubt if Pat is looking to covert anyone, although I do think he's tried to convince people about the nonsense of giving in to religious nonsense, especially muslim bullying. There's a lot of politically correct nonsense going on in Europe. Ironically, that won't happen here because of the strong disdain christians have for muslims in the US. That's one point atheists and christians can agree on, which will last until they get their panties in a twist about a movie, a tv show, a song, a billboard or a couple of gays. Atheists reject muslim bullshit because its bullshit. Christians reject muslim bullshit because its not their brand of bullshit.I completely agree with you here. And you're right: it is very ironic that in secular (by comparison) Europe this sort of thing is going on. I recently had an argument with someone who said that this proved the value of fundamentalist Christianity. I thought he was full of shit and I told him so. To fight religious fanaticism, what's needed is NOT more religious fanaticism, but just some plain old fashioned backbone. Someone has to tell these people that Sharia law doesn't cut it and isn't welcome in Western Europe, but so far no one seems to have the balls to do it.As I said, even though I don't agree with everything Condell says (real surprise, I know) I genuinely admire him for his guts. As I'm sure you know, he gets a LOT of death threats. I just hope he has a good security system in his flat.-smith

  66. You can believe in elves for all I care. The important point is when you try to justify something because of your elf belief. As Pat said, "My freedom is more important than your faith." To go a step further though, I will say I do care about your elf belief if you had such a belief. Yeah I know, it's your life, but I can't help but be sad that you'd indulge in such shit, just like I'd feel about someone who drinks too much or abuses drugs. Like those other abuses, I do worry about the effect it has on those around you.Normally I view the old "let's agree to disagree" as bullshit, but despite your differences on the god thing, I don't see anything where you and I would have to fight over it. I think each of us would respect the other's rights to think however they want and leave it at that. As long as we don't impose on one another, no problem.

  67. MoR:I gotta say, having read your comment, you sound like a functional atheist to me.One thing:I believe in a god because a universe created by something makes more sense to me than a universe that just happened through a series of happy yet highly unlikely (even Dawkins admits this) coincidences.I find the opposite; even so, I see no reason to infer the existence of supernatural entities (which is what deities are) from the premise that the Universe was created by something.If you don't mean a deity, then to call whatever you mean "God" is misleading.If you do, I hope you have other reasons, since I can't see how you infer it from the premise given.–PS Corvicides, eh?

  68. Normally I view the old "let's agree to disagree" as bullshit, but despite your differences on the god thing, I don't see anything where you and I would have to fight over it. Until we start talking about football. Then the sparks will REALLY fly! ;>)I think each of us would respect the other's rights to think however they want and leave it at that. As long as we don't impose on one another, no problem.I think that's an excellent way of looking at, not just religious issues, but the world in general. And best of luck to the Kansas City Chiefs.They're gonna need it. (sorry, couldn't resist) ;>)-smith

  69. John, sorry it took so long to respond. I've been working two straight weeks without a day off, and, as you might imagine, my employer takes a dim view of my engaging in theological debates on company time. ;>)I gotta say, having read your comment, you sound like a functional atheist to me.That's a very interesting observation. I actually found it rather amusing, for reasons I will explain below.I was raised a Catholic. Even at a very young age, I found many aspects of Catholic doctrine to be puzzling. But whenever I would raise a question, such as, "If God can do anything, why did Jesus have to die so He could forgive our sins? Doesn't that mean that God can't do everything?" My usual answer was a rap on the hand with a rather large ruler (the nuns didn't fuck around in those days).As I grew older, I found the Bible puzzling and self-contradictory. But at the time, I just assumed the problem was with ME, not the Bible. I just assumed that there was something I wasn't getting.I attended a Catholic college, and, among other things, took a course on the Bible that was taught by, believe it or not, an atheist. She was a wonderful teacher, and people like PZ Myers who think that insult and ridicule is the way to reach people could learn a lot from her. Although I only took two courses from her, we became friends and I continued to learn from her throughout my four years at that college.From her I learned of the history of the Bible, and the many contexts of that book. Unlike what I was taught at CCD (Sunday school, for you non-Catholics), I came to learn not only that it was written by many different people with different ideas and agendas, but that the Bible as we now know it was the result of the early Church deciding what went in and what was cut. Most importantly, I came to understand, thanks to her, that the problem lay not with me, but with the Bible itself. All of a sudden, all those contradictions–and by extension, the Bible itself–made a little more sense. But of course, the more the Bible made sense, the less it explained.She could sense that I was a skeptic at heart, and she encouraged me to examine my own Catholic beliefs with the same skepticism that I applied to other religions. When I did so, most, if not all, of those beliefs were shed like so much excess clothing.But the belief in a higher power remains. It may perhaps be so much wishful thinking on my part, but nevertheless I remain what one could perhaps call an agnostic deist. I believe in "god", whatever that may mean, but I in no way claim to know the nature of "god". It's merely part of my way of looking at the universe. For this reason I have no patience with religious fundies. I mean, we're not even sure if God exists, and these people act like they have his cell phone number. I deplore the many odious things that are done in the name of religion. But I am, perhaps, more charitable to the religious than most atheists. I have more patience with those who have firm beliefs, as long as they don't make them my problem. Throughout history, mankind has believed in a "god" of one sort or another. Even while not believing them myself, I view the world's religions, past and present, as mankind's natural inclination to put a human face on that which he cannot completely come to terms with. But I am similarly impatient with those who claim to "know" there is no god.I do believe that science, not religion, has taught us what we know about the physical universe, and will continue to do so. While I am willing to entertain the idea of a "primary creator", I believe man has an intellectual, and perhaps even a moral, obligation to keep looking for the truth. I believe science is the way to discover that truth.I do believe there is a place for religion in the 21st century, but not in the realm of science. Religion can still act as a moral beacon for society, assuming it can ever get its own house in order. But sometimes I wonder if even this goal is realistic.I am comfortable with the few beliefs I have left because they're the ones that have survived my own skepticism, which, I might add, is ongoing. I was having lunch with my sister recently, and she was genuinely astonished to learn that I believed in God. "I always thought you were some kind of skeptical atheist", she said. Skeptical? Yes. Atheist? Not quite.Atheists consider me a theist. Theists consider me an atheist. I found your comment somewhat amusing because it represented one of the few times that a member of either group was willing to consider me one of their own.Thanks. ;>)-smith

  70. Hey pal, I'm just gonna get it out of the way now – congrats on a great opening day victory. I truly do not look forward to that day. We saw last year how much of a bastard Bellichek was, running up the score in every game as if he was reliving that Conference Championship game where he just needed another score and couldn't get it again and again on every drive. I can only hope that having now lost at the hands of both Mannings, that's he's gone insane and unhinged like Capt. Ahab. Still, I'm sure he'll keep punching my team in the teeth long after they say "uncle", especially being the first game back and at home. As for PZ, I've got no problem at all with what he's doing, and he wouldn't be doing what he's doing if it weren't for that craziness the catholics perpetrated when someone tried to walk out with one of their magic crackers. He didn't just wake up one day and think, "how can I REALLY piss off catholics?" Thanks for the little personal history. Very nice.

  71. You have my word of honor that, no matter what the score, I will NOT rub it in. Not sportin', you know.As far as Belichick goes, I admit, he's a total motherfucker. But he's OUR motherfucker, so that makes it ok. I have no doubt that if he coached another team we'd hate him every bit as much as the rest of the country does.Thanks for the little personal history. Very nice.I'm going to assume you're being sincere and not sarcastic here–I never really know with you, do I? ;>)But since you and I have had our differences in the past, I just felt a little personal history might be helpful. I just want you to know where I'm coming from. And for some reason, I just wanted to get it off my chest. Thanks for listening. If you're ever in Boston, look me up. The beer's on me. ;>)-smith

  72. Yes, sorry, I was sincere.

  73. I was pretty sure you were. Cheers!

  74. Hello to all,I've been reading the posts, and I'm glad to see there is a place to discuss the nuances in the world-views of those that have rejected organized religion.To add my two cents, I just wanted to include the way I look at the various definitions for the positions listed here. As usual, it isn't easy to come up with a catch-all definition for a nuanced concept, but I'll try. Let me start by giving you definitions, as I see them, along with their connotations.Theism, as I see it, is belief in a god that is responsive to prayer. In theism, god is an interactive god who exerts influence over our daily lives, according to our individual relationship with him. Because he will interact and communicate with us, according to the nature of our relationship with him, his will should be done, and he is entitled to worship, "or worthy to be praised." Theism, under this definition, is worship of a personal god. Most organized religions in the West fall into this category. I call theism "the two-way communication" concept of god.I have always interpreted Deism to be the belief in the existence of a higher power, with superior intelligence. The issue of interference into our daily lives is handled differently in deism than in theism. In deism, the higher power (god or gods) created the Earth, setting natural laws into motion, but he no longer interferes with the goings-on here on Earth, either because he is unwilling or incapable. In a deistic world-views, there is no use in praying to god, because he can't hear our prayers, or because he won't respond even if he does. There is also no need to obey him or worship him. His mind (including his will, his likes and dislikes) is unknowable to us. Said another way, deism attributes the wonders and mysteries of the universe to a superior intelligence, with whom it is impossible for us to communicate. I consider deism the "one-way communication" concept of god. The idea of God as a label for the mystery and wonder of the universe would fall under the deism category.If you can agree with the characterizations above, perhaps we should add the concept of adeism to the discussion.Atheism would be a rejection of the concept of theism – the idea it that is possible to have a two-way relationship with a god. Atheism would hold that it isn't possible to know to the will of god, because there is currently no method of transmitting his will that is verifiable, or not susceptible to corruption. So, an atheist would refute the existence of god/gods because of the lack of evidence corroborating the existence of such beings. Atheism would be a rejection of the concept of any given religion that is based upon the claim of knowledge about the mind, nature and abilities of a superior being.Adeism would then be a rejection of the belief that there is currently sufficient evidence that a superior being that is responsible for the creation of the universe, and natural laws within it. Adeism would then also include the atheism – rejection of the concept of a god that interferes in the lives of mankind – by definition.So, in a way, to subscribe to adeism is to make a statement about your view on how the world came into existence, ie without the necessary help of a superior being. Atheism is a world-view pertaining to man's current inability to have an effect (with certainty) in a realm other than the natural.By these definitions, if you are an adeist, you are automatically an atheist. But you can be an atheist, and still br a deist.So, if I were to apply the definitions to myself, I would be an an adeist and an atheist. Of course, these labels apply to the current state of the evidence for the existence of a god. I reserve the right to change my opinion, should convincing evidence for the existence of god present itself. Cheers to all,PalindromicAnagram

  75. A:One of the nice things about language is that words have meanings that have grown out of centuries of usage. Yes, meanings may change as language evolves. And certainly, many words have nuances and connotations in addition to their dictionary denotations. But you can't just make up your own shit definitions and expect them to fly on your say-so. Your definition of "theist" is incorrect. Your definition of "deist" is wrong, both linguistically and historically. Your definition of "atheist" is inaccurate and insulting to those of us who are atheists. You made up the word "adeist" and defined it tendentiously.Other than that, your ideas are great. And when I say "great," I'm using nuance for "stupid."

  76. I find it amusing to be in the role of good cop…A: Theism is the belief in the existence of a god or gods, not simply belief in interpersonal deities, so a Deist is a theist. The varieties of theists are vast, and atheists reject all of them because at their core they share the one common theme, that there's at least one deity out there somewhere despite there being any evidence to support that.Mind you, atheism isn't about saying there definitely isn't any deities though. We can't say there definitely isn't something which we have no evidence for one way or another, just like fairies, Nessie, Big Foot, and so on. However, the lack of evidence certainly makes it irrational to think something exists.

  77. Philly Chief,Thank you for taking on the role of good cop, I appreciate it. One of the things I really like about your site is that you always articulate yourself in a way that can respect the poster, while completely disrespecting a nonsense argument. I fancy debate techniques, quite a bit, so I appreciate the time you take to break down arguments, step by step. I'm not sure why my post caused such a nasty reply. I apologize if it seemed I was belittling anyone's beliefs.I thought the purpose of this thread was to discuss possible ways to reframe the atheist argument, and come up with a new word or words to describe adherents to atheist principles that is not riddled with negative connotations, in the way that "bright" is.For me, the benefit of this site is in the way it provides tools that atheists can use to discuss their principles with religious people. If I wasn't willing to converse with others who have differing opinions, I never would have "converted" to my current atheism. Also, in order for atheists to garner more public recognition, I think it helps if we can agree on terminology.I'm perfectly clear on how the term atheist is generally used. I understand that atheist is used to mean a denial of the existence of god, based on existing evidence, analyzed using prinicples of logic. One of the quotes I love to use in my discussions with religious people is the famous line from, Stephen Roberts, “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.” That is the sense in which I am an atheist, although I do try to provide an explanations using logic when I debate with the "Super-Christy", as Bill Maher likes to call them.But the word "atheist" has a connotation that is not identical to its denotation, and therein lies the confusion.For instance, many dictionaries list atheism as the belief or theory that god does not exist. That definition is problematic. First, it describes the atheistic position in terms of belief, rather than on rational analysis. Next, it positions atheism alongside other belief systems, when it is clearly not analogous to religious belief in almost every way. Also, it implies a certainty in the position, which is not possible, and not characteristic of many atheists. Many atheists, like me, hold the position that the evidence for the existence of God is severely lacking at best, non-existent at worst. In my previous post, I was hoping to provide a reframing of the words that we currently use, in light of how the related words are used among believers. I'm not suggesting that we pander to believers, but there may be some value in modifying the discourse so that we are more easily understood by them.Adeist is a made-up word, it is supposed to be. Just like bright and faithfreeist are in this context. The earlier descriptions of deism and theism, however, were accurate, in light of how they are used to differentiate believers. Each world-view has a different concept of the nature of God, and humans relationship with him. The use of adeism and atheism in that context, was meant to imply opposition or rejection of those specific concepts. This was an analysis of the denotation of the terms, fully realizing that the use is different in secular circles.So, yes, Philly Chief, I agree that atheism is usually used to deny more than just the existence of a personal god. Your original post, which was fantastic by the way, inspired a discussion of language, and the use of modifiers like "a" "un", etc, and whether "lack" was automatically negative in connotation. So, in light of my previous posts, I'm using atheist in the sense that means the rejection of specifically theist notions, not "atheist" in the sense it is currently used. Theism and deism are different views about the nature of God, although both views take for granted his existence. It seems that we are completely at odds about our respective understanding of the terms theist and deist. I think you are using the term theist to mean one who believes in a deity. That is its most inclusive meaning, and the one generally used by the public, so you are not incorrect. I am using the terms the way they are used within religious/philosophical studies – that was why I went into detail about interference vs non-interference of God. I figured to go into Determinism vs free will would have been excessive. LOL There is a clear distinction between deism and theism, when the terms used in the philosophy of religion. If you are interested in more info, in God is not Great, Christopher Hitchens gives an explanation of the differences between deism and theism when he asserts that both Einstein ("God does not play with dice") and Jefferson were deists, despite popular opinion to the contrary. Thomas Hobbes was also crucial in developing deist theory. To get really specific, a classical deist cannot be a theist, because theists rely on works crafted via divine revelation to support religious study, and classical deists deny the possibility of divine revelation. For deists, "religious study", if you can really call it that, is actually the study of natural law, through which the existence of god is proved. There are other differences, but the non-interference of god in human affairs is a central principle of classic deism. And no, I am not making these definitions up. LOL. Granted, I am construing their meanings as they pertain to a specific field of study. I think part of the problem in finding the correct terminology for these issues is that the terms are usually too inclusive.I was saying that if we had used the terms atheist and adeist to mean someone who rejects the core tenets of theism and deism, respectfully, it would be more easily understood by believers.Granted, given that my first post was misunderstood, the terms I presented would probably not help to clear things up. LOL If anything, the responses have illustrated the confusion that results from secular and religious uses.The core principles of those within "atheist" community are hardly uniform, nor should they be (Sam Harris, anyone?), and we need to reserve the right to nuances in individual thought.I'm proposing, as an approach to labelling ourselves, that we define ourselves in terms of the concepts we reject, as opposed to having to list the intricacies of what we do believe.Granted, the "a" prefix would make things confusing, given the current usages of deist and theist.But the basic idea I'm proposing is to capitalize on the existing definitions for belief in God, and create words, with an appropriate prefix, to express our opposition to it. As an example, we could use the term "irreligion", borrowing from Hume/Russell. I'm suggesting this approach of adding modifiers to the terms used by beliveres as a jumping off point, not a fait accompli.Adhering to a particular system of thought is not a natural state of affairs, so to say you disagree with a particular system of thought doesn't automatically imply a lack of something that you should have.I was hoping to submit ideas for discussion, not inspire the wrath of atheists who feel I have insulted their position. If I have offended you, again I apologize.Regardless of your views, thanks to all who have taken the time to reply.Cheers to all.

  78. I think the Roberts line is one which is amusing, but ultimately problematic, especially the last sentence of "When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.” Their reasons for dismissing other gods has nothing at all to do with why we dismiss theirs, and in fact damages our credibility because its ammunition for their ridiculous argument that atheism is also based on faith and therefore, just another religion. The religious don't dismiss other gods for lack of evidence, for logically examining the arguments for them, or any such rational reason. They dismiss them because their religion demands it. That couldn't be further from why I dismiss theirs and all other gods and, I hope, couldn't be further from every atheist's reasons.The problem of finding a suitable defining word may always be problematic, and may always be a negative, a rejection of some other, like "atheist" or "faithfreeist" because we don't have a cohesive belief system. I would like to hope that all of us value reason and evidence, but clearly that's not true. There are atheists who buy into crystals, magnets, ghosts, and assorted flavors of woo. There was even that study earlier this year which had some 20+% or atheists claim they believe there's a god. Wtf is that? Also, there are the numbnuts out there who sadly are just like the stereotype which the religious wish to paint atheists as, the type who do take on faith that there's no god and proclaim that as a knowable truth.Ultimately, the effort of finding a defining word is a waste of time. A better use of time would be to work towards not needing such a word at all, to work towards promoting education and critical thinking. Most of the irrational things like religion, in such a climate, should fall by the wayside. Until then, if there must be debate about a term, I prefer that whatever anyone use, it not contain elements that are self defeating, and I find embracing the concept of us LACKING in any way a powerful example of embracing a self defeating element.

  79. Philly Chief,I agree wholeheartedly about the limit of the practical use of the Roberts line in a debate…the comment belies the rationality and logic that most atheists use to come to their position. The real value in the statement, for me, is in its assertion that we are all atheists with respect to one god or another. For me, the first part of the Roberts line is a starting off point. My 1-2-3 strategy usually is: 1. Point out that religious people are atheists wrt to countless pagan gods. 2. Question the value of faith as a virtue. 3. Examine the means by which they verify religious truths, claimed to be discovered via divine revelation or through study of natural law. Many of the fundies I've debated think that atheism has no relationship, or relevance to their belief in a particular god. They don't consider themselves as atheists with respect to Zeus, Mithras, Horus, etc. So for me, the Roberts comment is usually a way to shift their perception of themselves, and the position of their belief. If atheism is perceived by a Super-Christy Person (SCP) as morally bankrupt or totally irrelevant, it can cause a bit of a shock for them if you can lay out an argument that proves them to be atheists themselves.Then, reasoning needs to follow the comment, as you've said previously. I absolutely agree. Our ability to rationalize our views is what separates rational atheists from the propagators of religious nonsense. Usually, I ask for the SCP to identify a non-subjective or natural phenomena that ultimately proves, or even suggests the superiority of your God, over that of the ancient Greeks, Egyptians, etc. Usually, there is no response, or an unsatisfactory one that is easily refuted. Usually, if you can get them to see that there are no facts that support their assertion that their Hebrew God is superior to all other Gods, they back off from an assertion that the existence of God is a fact, and then talk about their experiences via their faith. Then I question the validity of faith as an admirable quality.Then, I go on to show that faith – the belief in a concept despite a lack of supporting evidence, or in the presence of evidence in the contrary – is an insufficient standard in almost every other area of consequence in our daily lives. Doctors don't operate on faith, we don't drive cars, or do our jobs based on faith. In general, the standard is higher than that of "faith" for practical matters. I imagine that most SCP's value their "immortal soul" more than their bodies, health or worldly possessions, so to have a less rigorous standard for a more valuable object is obviously nonsensical.Then, I can capitalize on the lack of knowledge that many SCPs have wrt to the compilation of the religious writings now known as the Bible, emergence of Christianity. Bring up character flaws of Joseph Smith, and the dealis usually sealed. LOL. Most SCPs I've encountered have no idea about the character and motives of the many people who wrote/translated the Bible. Furthermore, I make my arguments specific to the stated beliefs of my discussion partner. If I'm discussing God with a theist, I would address the integrity of the religious texts, and the means by which we are meant to verify works written via divine revelation. So essentially, I assert and prove that their claim of knowledge of the mind of god is unverifiable, and therefore, of no more merit than a belief in the existence of Santa Claus, as you've said.If I'm discussing god with a deist, usually, the person is already half way to atheism anyway, so I would abandon the divinity issue, and simply ask them to explain the difference, quantitatively or qualitatively, between a natural law that is evidence of the existence of a god, and a natural law that is a consequence of how our universe evolved, without supernatural intrusion. In other words, what evidence to you have that proves, or even suggests, a god was needed to set our natural law into motion. And if evidence of god is in natural law, wouldn't any morality based on such as system spring out of a naturalistic fallacy? I know that you are a master of debate techniques, so I don't mention my method to inform you. I know you are already well informed, and use your time to inform others. I only mention the process I use because in expressing the concepts above, I at no point have had to say anything about the nature of my personal views. So I agree with you when you say that finding a word to describe your own views is less necessary than being able to articulate your position, and tailor your response to refute the specific beliefs of your opponent. If a word is to be used, it helps me to frame it in terms of rejection of the core principles of a religious belief system, so I can adjust my argument accordingly. So in position, I would be anti-theist, or anti-deist, or irreligious, but I may never actually use those words.Thank you again for taking the time to create a website with great resources for having logical, passionate, but courteous discussions from an atheist perspective. Perhaps we are no closer to finding a specific word, but I think with this post, we are working towards improving the quality of and mutual understanding within the atheist discourse. Thank you for your continuing contributions to this effort. Congrats on a site well done.Cheers.P.S. I'm still going through all of the posts on your site, but I'm looking forward to posts that address the varieties of woo that atheists can claim to believe. I have my theories on how and why "atheists" claim to buy into that kind of stuff, but I'd love to hear what you think.forty40K

  80. See, here's the flaw in your thinking – you're assuming logical arguments and solid reasoning matter to these people. Usually, they don't. For instance, look up "presuppositionalists". Here's my thinking for debating religious people:1) Never bother if strictly one on one2) Never bother unless in an open environment (ie – never engage where believers can edit, delete, or in any way engage in shenanigans with eithr your post or your status (as in a forum))3) A debate is not to convince your opponent, win, or score points. It's for the sake of others observing. 4) REALLY no point to it if your opponent is a presuppositionalistYou may be inspired to try to deconvert. That's nice but largely a waste of time. You may be inspired by revenge (bitter for being hoodwinked into believing for so long). That's also a waste of time and just going to eat you up from the inside and turn you into a crank. The best thing is to just shoot down nonsense when you come across it, do your best to champion your beliefs when necessary, and be willing and able to answer questions and provide assistance to people who ask for it. That's it. Religious wars and evangelizing are best left to the religious.

  81. Philly Chief,Not sure where you got the idea that I try to convert people to atheism. Most of the people who know me don't know that I'm an atheist until they ask. I would be willing to bet that you spend much more of your time interacting with fundies than I do, given the great posts you've written on dismantling religious "arguments" By having a website that explains your position, you are going to come across more opportunities to champion your position, than people who don't publicize their views. I don't think that speaking your mind, automatically means that you are trying to convert people, especially, if you responding to their inquiry.Also, if all religious people were incapable of logic, there would be no point in spending the time to dismantle their arguments, because they wouldn't understand your rebuttal anyway. It may be true that many religious people are incapable of reason. In my experience, many religious people haven't applied logic to their religion, not because they are illogical, but because they value faith more than reasoning in the religious discourse. Logic is an effective tool only when used among people who understand it, and I agree it should be reserved for those occasions.For the record, I'm not an American. In my culture, the prevailing attitude is more socially liberal than America seems to be, historically. Because of that, my views, as they pertain to religion are not controversial to many religious people in my country. Most of my discussions have been with religious people who are not fundamentalists, so conversion is not really even considered for either party. I used the term Super-Christy because it is more appropriate for the variety of Christian I most often encounter here. The most common variety of Christian in my experience is typically personally conservative, but socially liberal.My original post mentioned debating, in terms of rejecting the concepts used by people within the religious community. Most of the debates I've had have occurred within a classroom environment, or IRL with fellow academics. I am a liberal pluralist, so conversion is not one of my goals. I could care less what other people believe privately. My only concern occurs when religious issues permeate the public discourse. Luckily, that isn't a big issue in my country, but that doesn't mean that liberal pluralists can rest on our laurels. LOLI understand the purpose of debate quite clearly. In my last post, I didn't express my personal views, I just pointed out the areas in which the reasoning was flawed, or non-existent in common theistic/deistic arguments. When I said, tongue-in-cheek, that a deist is easy to convince, I was just pointing out that classical deism has many similarities with aspects of atheism, so it can be like preaching to the choir, depending on the variety of deism they espouse. When discussing these issues, it helps to be prepared to answer the questions asked, rather than spouting a canned answer. In the discussions I've had, I've focussed on protection of personal liberty, rather than the discovery of what is right or true (objective morality). So, in the case of homosexuality, the Bible's position on it (which is hardly clear, btw) becomes irrelevant. The issue becomes of question of whether 2 adults have the personal freedom to engage in sexual activity of their choice in their private lives. If not, how and why does that behaviour pose a threat to a public interest. Furthermore, is it appropriate to limit an individual's rights on the basis of a document, of questionable authorship and authority?If you can frame the discussion in those terms, it usually makes the debate less confrontational, in my experience. Then, depending on the reasoning skills of the people in the discussion, you can begin to address religion/god from a logical perspective.Cheers.

  82. In America, your gung-ho nature is usually indicative of what I described. As a non-American, it boggles my mind what motivates you. It took the craziness of the W years to get most of us here off our asses. Of course we Americans are a tad lazy. ;) Naturally not all religious are completely irrational, but those itching to debate an atheist generally are. The reason why I said an audience is needed was not for the sake of my ego, but for the hope of reaching an observer who is one of those who are religious yet don't completely dismiss critical thinking. Another reason is to let someone who may be trapped in Jesusland know that he or she isn't alone. Finally, for better or worse, I think any debate I have may serve another atheist. Either I say something clever they can use in their own efforts or I royally fuck up and they learn from my mistakes. Either way, it's out there. I know I certainly benefitted from observing other's debates.

  83. "In America, your gung-ho nature is usually indicative of what I described. As a non-American, it boggles my mind what motivates you. It took the craziness of the W years to get most of us here off our asses."Aside from the tongue-in-cheek humour, which I understand, I'm not sure exactly what you mean here. Are you saying that you can't imagine the value of introducing atheism into the public discourse, unless you live in a political climate like that in America? Or that you don't understand what motivates people to self-identify as atheists, unless it is a response to religious fundamentalism? I'm asking for clarity here because I wouldn't want to accuse you of holding opinions that you don't.Also, in my experience, non-Americans sometimes have an belief that Americans are largely ignorant and/or uninterested in what goes on in other countries. Secularism is the antidote to religious fundamentalism, IMO. While neither is perfect, countries like Canada & The Netherlands provide excellent examples of how secularism can succeed. I think that some American atheists may be able to find value in learning about how secularism developed in those countries. I'm happy to explain a bit about secularism in my country. But rest assured, there are other motivations, other than George W. Bush, that inspire opposition to religious fundamentalism. LOL

  84. Americans are pragmatic and almost never proactive, and in my experience, most American atheists are pretty apathetic. The legacy of W and the religious Right in America will be prompting a massive increase in atheist activism and secularization. The trick will be to maintain the motivation after they ebb.

  85. I think that your site, and others like it, are, and will continue to be crucial in maintaining public interest in atheism and secularization. Thank you, sincerely, for contributing to the cause. Your site is great!I agree with your OP that it is important to name our movement in a way that accurately communicates our position, as much as possible. In my reading, I think that nontheist & irreligious person are my favourite possible options so far. Anti-theist is Hitchens' word. It's good, but potentially offensive. So I'd keep that ones for specific situations. LOL.As you said, we need to maintain interest in atheist issues, going forward. I think that one of many ways to do this, is to formulate positions, from an atheist perspective, on specific political issues. This way, we may engage religious types when we discuss these issues, but not on the topic of religion, specifically. I want to reiterate that our approaches probably differ because we have a different breed of religious types up here. ;-) Let me see if I can explain. I think you said before that you felt that religious people (in general) don't rely on logic in decision making. Instead, you said you find that many of them are presuppositionists. I won't disagree with your personal experience, but I don't share it. Because I'm in an academic environment, I very often meet exceptionally intelligent & logical religious people. Seems strange, right? The reason for this apparent contradiction is Cognitive Dissonance, IMHO.I have found that religious people don't apply the same standard of skepticism and logic to their religious views, as they do other aspects of their lives. Essentially, they compartmentalize their lives into a religious part, and a real-world/rational part. So on the occasions when I discuss religion and/or politics with them, I formulate my arguments with their cognitive dissonance in mind. I try tailor my arguments to capitalize on the cognitive dissonance, rather than try to shake them out of it.Taking that concept a step further – To address the political consequences of atheism, going forward, I think we can reshape the nature of the discourse, by surreptitiously creating ground rules of discussion that are in our favour. We do this by capitalizing on their cognitive dissonance. If the pre-existing compartments in their head are:[religious]||[real-world]We get them to add the additional labels:[personal] || [public]In more concrete terms, what we are saying (not in these exact words, of course) to religious types is something like this: If your moral values are informed solely by your religion, that is sufficient motivation for your behaviour in personal matters (within the confines of law, of course). But the divine provenance of your holy book is not a falsifiable claim. It is a matter of faith, and such faith cannot be expected of non-believers. Also, "Verification through personal experience of God" is an impossible standard for non-believers to be expected to achieve. Therefore, the edicts in a holy book can not be considered to be the ultimate moral authority on an issue of public policy, for people outside of your faith. So, when arguing your position in the public discourse, citing a holy book as an ultimate moral authority provides no support for your position. Faith can be defined as holding steadfast to your beliefs, in spite of a lack of evidence. Convincing another of your opinion, on the other hand, relies on evidence. Your faith is not enough to convince someone else of your point of view, but logical, rational arguments, supported by real-world evidence, just might be. Your position on a given topic may be the "correct" one, but stating, 'It says so in the Bible/Quran/Torah' provides no support for that claim.Essentially, we are removing from their "arsenal" the argument from scripture. This technique hinges on the concept that, for the purposes of political discussion, we are not challenging their faith as it pertains to personal issues. Also, this strategy eliminates the possibility of conversion/de-conversion as an aim of the discussion.To provide an example, consider the topic of circumcision in infants. IMO, but for the religious implications, there would be a public outcry about such an arcane practice. Anyway…In discussing this issue, the both sides would need to find support or refuation in data about the medical benefits and consequences of the practice. I happen to be against infant circumcision. Supporters of the practice would have the burden of providing evidence that the benefits of the procedure are so great that the medical standards of informed consent should be ignored. IMO, it is a steep road to climb to defend the idea of performing a cosmetic procedure at infancy that can be performed in adolescence, when informed consent would be possible.Using the strategy for gay marriage – the religious argument from scripture – would be nullified. Opponents to gay marriage would have to provide evidence for their position in the form of real-world data suggesting any deleterious effects of the practice.We can use the same technique for any topic. If secularists can press this issue, by denying the moral authority of scripture, and rejecting it as sufficient evidence to support an opinion pertaining to public policies, perhaps we can actually get our points across. And maybe, just maybe, by requiring discussions to be fact and evidence based, we may, in the process, even force some religious people to face the vacuousness of their beliefs. But that's a high hope. ;-)

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