In the recent past, in AN discussions, I have noticed two different opinions about what constitutes atheism.

One opinion holds that all humans are born atheists and they may later become religionists or confirm themselves as atheists, as they grow up. This seems like a transient atheism. This supposes that not knowing about the existence or otherwise of god or gods is also enough to qualify as an atheist. To be called an atheist, it is not necessary to thoughtfully, firmly, state that no supernatural exists. It is not necessary posses a firm belief or knowledge to qualify to be an atheist. Knowledge, therefore, is not an essential constituent of atheism.

What is then the status of a less-than-year-old child that is made to fold its hand in worship by the suggestion of an elder? Does this child remain an atheist? If lack of knowledge of a god can be atheism, then, conversely, can lack of knowledge of atheism make a child a religionist? Can a mentally retarded person whose mental status is the same as an infant, be counted as an atheist? This opinion would prohibit a person from being an agnostic till he acquires knowledge but allow him to be an atheist till then! A transcendent atheist will feel no importance of science, the greatest support of atheism today.

This opinion is extremely helpful for winning an argument about natural status of atheism.

The second opinion about what constitutes atheism states that atheism must be a conscious decision. An atheist must be able to proclaim that he does not believe in god, no such thing as god exists, that god is a man’s creation, a fiction. Therefore, atheism is a knowledge-based argument. This opinion will not support “natural atheism” theory but will lend atheism tremendous weight of firmness arising out of knowledge. Atheism thus defined will not be a transient atheism but will be a potentially firm belief, reversible only in the most unlikely event of knowledge supporting belief in god.  This definition of atheism will permit secularism, agnosticism as precursors to atheism, as it’s natural steps. Science can be a strong part of the support structure of such an atheism.

These are basically the arguments of the two sides. Which opinion is more correct? Which one would you support and why?

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Replies to This Discussion

Richard ∑wald

Amongst these will be descriptions of god(s) you (like any infant) have yet to consider, and have no knowledge of. If, like the infant, you have no conscious basis for non belief in the god, "天理王命" as of yet. How, as you insist in the case of infants, can you call yourself an atheist?

 

My atheism includes nop-belief in any god, known or unknown. I do believe that any supernatural exists. Had I had any doubt in my mind on this matter, I would not have considered myself an atheist. My position is therefor is not like an infant. I know that there are many ideas about gods in India itself, about which I do not know, but I have excluded them from my belief. 

Atheism is the nonbelief in any gods (note the plural).

Theism is the belief in at least one god (not the belief in all gods).

God is a simple word used to describe a supernatural power and there could be thousands of ideas about this. I do not think that I should investigate them, prove to myself that none of them exists before I declare myself an atheist. The "unknown gods" is a fallacious position because the idea behing god/gods is same, only names and imaginary stories change.

"My atheism includes non-belief in any god, known or unknown."

Same as any infant.

Madhukar, it is not a silly question for me either. I like your summary:  

A baby is born atheist;

A child learns to be a theist; 

A person using rational and free thinking learns to be an atheist. 

Richard and Joseph, are these correct statements? 

A baby is born atheist;

A child learns to be a theist; 

A person using rational and free thinking learns to be an atheist

I'd only make (3) small changes and a disclaimer* for clarity sake:

A person is born atheist;

A person learns to be a theist (*though, whether indoctrination can be considered a conscious choice is debatable); 

A person using rational and free thinking >may learn to be an atheist.

What can be shown is that there is no one true™ path to either position, nor is there any one true™ path from either position. 

I think I answered this but if not, Richard, your changes and disclaimer make sense. 

Richard Ewald

"My atheism includes non-belief in any god, known or unknown."

Same as any infant.

As I have come to see it now, we differ not on the difinition of atheism but on the definition of the word INFANT! I have therefore decided to say that we should agree to disagree. My discussion with you rests here.

"As I have come to see it now, we differ not on the difinition of atheism but on the definition of the word INFANT!"

I'm okay with this definition:

infant |ˈinfənt|noun

a very young child or baby.


What's your definition of the word "infant"?


"I have therefore decided to say that we should agree to disagree. My discussion with you rests here."


Don't presume to speak for me. I don't agree to agree to disagree (because it's a meaningless dismissive platitude, for one), therefore I will call out intellectual dishonesties in this thread or any other until logic, reason and critical thinking are deemed worthless on this forum.

BTW, what does "agree to disagree" actually mean, to you? It's been my experience that when people utter this platitude, it's to avoid admitting that they've painted themselves into a corner, …but in place of admitting this, …they dismiss those who choose to argue their position honestly.


Is this part of the "atheist character" you wish to promote?

 

 


 "agree to disagree" That is a good question. For me, when I have discussions with whom I disagree, and value the relationship, such as a beloved cousin, I do not believe god exists; she believes god exists. We agree that we disagree. I have no interest in changing her mind and she has no interest in changing mine. Our experiences are different; I can't discount hers any more than I would allow her to discount mine. 

When it gets to politics, she votes Republican, I usually vote Democrat. She is patriotic in a conventional way; I am patriotic in a resister sort of way. She is pro-war; I am anti-war. She thinks USA soldiers are honorable men; I think USA military men are pawns of illegal and immoral old men. 
Therefore, our affection for one another comes from different realms than religion, politics, economics, or patriotism. We both came from violent backgrounds and each of us learned different ways to cope. She feels worthless without her god to guide her, I feel no need of a god and believe I am made of the same stuff as the stars ... billions and billions of stars and I am part of it all. That makes me feel valuable beyond language.  

"agree to disagree" That is a good question."

There is also context.

"Therefore, our affection for one another comes from different realms than religion, politics, economics, or patriotism."

Sure, I can appreciate this. My S.O. and I (almost) never talk about music.  Her experience of music comes solely as a consumer of pop culture, my experience comes from 45+ years as a musician most of them as a professional musician and as a teacher of music theory and ethnomusicology. As you said, "she has no interest in changing my mind, I have no interest in changing hers".

But, that's not the same context as a group debate/discussion on a specific topic. There is an expectation of a dialectic process.

As one of my favorite atheist/feminist/GLBT activist bloggers, Greta Christina points out in her blog; the "agree to disagree" argument is often a ploy, not an argument, or an agreement.

You and your cousin arrived at this decision mutually because the question of belief/non belief isn't a priority in your relationship. This is not the context we have here, is it?

"I have therefore decided to say that we should agree to disagree. My discussion with you rests here."

MADHUKAR KULKARNI

Is not at all the same. Please re-read what it is I'm responding to and how it is expressed, as well as what preceded it:

"As I have come to see it now, we differ not on the difinition of atheism but on the definition of the word INFANT!"

MADHUKAR KULKARNI

Is there any context where the above can be shown to be intellectually honest? As Greta points out, this is another "Shut up, that's why" ploy. One that tries to paint those who use it as being reasonable and well intentioned, but:

"...it makes the believer seem reasonable and tolerant and nice, and the atheist seem like a churlish jerk. I mean, what are atheists supposed to say? "No, we can't just agree to disagree"? "No, we can't just live and let live"? "No, we can't just drop it -- we're going to keep picking this fight every chance we get"?"

As I said in my response, I'm not easily cowed into silence by intellectually dishonest rhetoric aimed at making dissent or disagreement look like a flaw in character. It only strengthens my resolve. 

I don't cave when theists use this ploy, why should it then be any different when a "proclaimed" atheist does?

Like I said, re-read the comment I responded to, this wasn't a simple "let's drop the subject", was it?

BTW, as one of many "life-long atheists" (one needs only to peruse the member pages to see that I'm not alone), the subject of this thread is, …me. As such, no I'm not going to "drop it", or be cowed into silence while anybody seeks to deny a core aspect of who I am, …just because it doesn't suit their "opinion".

Richard ∑wald

Although I discontinued the discussion with you, I knew in my mind that I will have to answer one more question.

While having a discussion with you, I always remembered the Vedic philosophers. The philosophy they created was very sophiticated and polished but it was based purely om imagination and so ultimately meant nothing. That is the way your arguments are, thae, with all the graphics you provide make a great impression but in the final analysis they mean very little. I do not desire to discuss with you what an infant is and the discussion has decsended to that level. Your arguments appear to be more tactical than intellectual. Sometimes I suspect that your arguments are designed merely to upset me.

Therefore, no more answers. If you wish to claim victory, you may gleefully do so, I remain firm in my opinion.

 

"Although I discontinued the discussion with you, I knew in my mind that I will have to answer one more question."

Do you realize what this contradiction reveals? 

"While having a discussion with you, I always remembered the Vedic philosophers. The philosophy they created was very sophiticated and polished but it was based purely om imagination and so ultimately meant nothing. That is the way your arguments are, thae, with all the graphics you provide make a great impression but in the final analysis they mean very little."

You have yet to table an argument that makes this case, and neither does the above show how any of my arguments or graphical representations are "pure imagination" or based on anything other than objective and empirical fact.

"I do not desire to discuss with you what an infant is and the discussion has decsended to that level."

Let's be clear about who took the discussion there in the first place.

"Your arguments appear to be more tactical than intellectual."

Thinly veiled personal attack, unless of course you have anything to offer in the way of counter argument (logic and reason will do) besides inference. BTW, how does "tactical" exclude intellectual, …exactly?

"Sometimes I suspect that your arguments are designed merely to upset me."

Wow! It is often said of suspicion, that; it says more about those who speculate from it, than those they suspect.

"Therefore, no more answers. If you wish to claim victory, you may gleefully do so"

Nope, while I do realize that some see discussion/debate as a pissing contest, I do not. There are no winners or losers, only valid and invalid arguments. The former are demonstrated via being logically sound, the latter are demonstrated by their being grounded in logical fallacy.

"I remain firm in my opinion"

I can see that, I'm open to changing mine, …if there's a reason to.

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