There's a fundamental disconnect between atheists and the word "atheist". Part of this is because there isn't complete agreement on what the word means.

  • Lack of belief in God
  • Lack of belief in God's existence

Lack of belief in God could simply mean a choice not to believe in God because he is cruel or undesirable for some reason -- but does not specifically address the question of God's existence.

Lack of belief in God's existence is more specific but still leaves the door open for interpretation because the phrase "lack of belief" is ambiguous. It might be a matter of degree or preponderance of evidence and not an absolute statement of disbelief. A more definitive position would leave no doubts:

  • Denial of God's existence

Denial of God's existence leaves no wiggle-room for interpretation. It's a flat-out position that God does not exist.

It's been my experience that most long-time atheists do not deny God's existence and adopt a more scientific stance which is willing to consider any argument or evidence that might change their minds. They don't want to make claims they can't back up. They understand the need for rational integrity. Just as the unqualified claim of God's existence is an article of faith, so is the unqualified claim of God's nonexistence. There's no evidence either way. An atheist can claim that there is no evidence for God or the supernatural (and never has been) and that there's no compelling reason to believe there ever will be. But there is a possibility -- however vanishingly small -- that there could be. A creator God is not an impossible proposition given what we know thus far. Existence . . . whether it's God's, the universe's or ours -- is an ineffable mystery; the greatest mystery of all. Certainty is an illusion and a claim that science is careful to avoid. Our understanding of the universe has undergone multiple paradigm shifts and will experience more in the future.

Whether you're absolutely certain that God exists or does not exist, you're pretending to know facts you have no access to.

Views: 689

Tags: God, ambiguous, atheism, belief, certainty, existence, faith, illusion, integrity, paradigm, More…rational

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Comment by Atheist Exile on April 8, 2012 at 4:00pm

The Big Think website has just posted a page featuring Neil deGrasse Tyson and his stance on atheism/agnosticism. The blurb preceding it reminds us that Dawkins also self-identifies as an agnostic. These scientists recognize that atheism, technically, represents an unsupportable position. But I'm not a technical atheist. I'm simply saying it is reasonable to claim that the preponderance of evidence makes atheism the stance likeliest to match reality. Unlike these scientists, I don't care if others think I'm "in their face". My willingness to entertain evidence of God might technically make me an agnostic but I believe that technicality does not prevent me from embracing atheism.

The Big Think article can be found at http://www.bigthink.com/think-tank/neil-degrasse-tyson-atheist-or-a.... It features a video of Tyson explaining his stance as an agnostic.

Before watching the video, below, take this Big Think test to determine how atheistic/agnostic/theistic you are: http://www.bigthink.com/think-tank/atheism-easter-atheister

Here's the blurb leading up to the video:

What's the Big Idea?

Richard Dawkins, the most famous atheist in the world, created a stir when he recently declared that he was not an atheist after all, but an agnostic. The news, which came during a debate with the Archbishop of Canterbury last month, seemed at first to be a big get for God. However, in The God DelusionDawkins was frank about his agnosticism.

So, how does Dawkins square his public persona with his lack of certitude? Easily. No matter how strongly Dawkins is associated with atheism, he is first and foremost a scientist. Therefore, "the existence of God is a scientific hypothesis like any other," he claims. 

Similarly, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson claims the title "scientist" above all other "ists." And yet, Tyson says he is "constantly claimed by atheists." So where does Tyson stand? He tells Big Think: “Neil deGrasse, widely claimed by atheists, is actually an agnostic.”

And here is the video:

 

Comment by Richard ∑wald on April 8, 2012 at 3:06pm

"I am perfectly comfortable with Russell's infinite regress argument v. infinite all powerful, all knowledgeable being existing for all eternity as proof of the non-existence of God/god/gods."

Comfort and absolute certainty are not the same, …good enough for me to have 100% non belief, but, existential "belief in" and "non belief in" are not truth-dependant propositions.

Comment by Richard ∑wald on April 8, 2012 at 2:45pm

"It's not possible to see them as competing."

Because one addresses belief, the other absolute certainty

"Agnosticism and atheism are different degrees of the same position."

Agnosticism is an oft co-opted term coined by Thomas Huxley, it is not a middle-ground between atheism and theism, it is addressing not belief-nonbelief but absolute certainty.

Theist = Faith-based Belief + Burden of proof

Agnostic Theist = Faith-based Belief

Gnostic Theist = Faith-based belief + Burden of proof

Atheist = Non-belief

Agnostic Atheist = Non-belief

Gnostic Atheist = Faith-based non-belief + Burden of Proof

"Agnosticism is not a creed but a method, the essence of which lies in the vigorous application of a single principle... Positively the principle may be expressed as in matters of intellect, do not pretend conclusions are certain that are not demonstrated or demonstrable."

~ T. H. Huxley

"Atheism is a kind of pride in 'humility in not taking it just for granted'."

No, it's a non-belief, not a creed or system of belief, "pride in humility" is an oxymoron.

But, if you want to play fast and loose with word definitions, you can of course apply any meaning to them you want, that you'll be conveying meaning however, is doubtful.

Comment by Atheist Exile on April 8, 2012 at 12:51pm

Hi Dean Loring,

I (as do scientists and courts) hold the standard of proof a little higher than "logically convincing". Common sense (or "sense making") is sometimes wrong.

Comment by Dean Loring on April 8, 2012 at 12:36pm

"Denial of God's existence leaves no wiggle-room for interpretation. It's a flat-out position that God does not exist."

I am perfectly comfortable with Russell's infinite regress argument v. infinite all powerful, all knowledgeable being existing for all eternity as proof of the non-existence of God/god/gods. It is no more a 'belief' than is is my comfort with the underlying logic I use. There is belief and there is sense making.

Comment by Vasanth Ra on April 8, 2012 at 11:22am

 

If you see them as competing positions, you can't be seeing them rationally. If you view things "truth" without evidence, you aren't understanding truth rationally.

 

     It's not possible to see them as competing.Agnosticism and atheism are different degrees of the same position.Agnosticism is more of a belief in theoritical probability of god's existence.Atheism is a kind of pride in 'humility in not taking it just for granted'.But practical agnosticism has a range and is not definite.The approach of agnosticism should not be like "if I am convinced that god exists i'll become a theist".The very idea of god is disturbing,uncomfortable.If he exists,questions like "who is he?","what is his origin?",etc. are unavoidable.So a good agnostic should be an atheist at heart.  

    Only the truth understood rationally is satisfactory(I can't see how else it can be).But proposes made by human beings are just theories.As long as evidences lie in line with the propose it is considered as "truth" or else not.And every theory is subjected to modification.

 

As far as definition of 'Atheist' is concerned,I agree with Richard.Atheism should contain no trace of god,just the opposite of theist with no inbetweens.

But you need a ground for your stand and atheism is no excuse.

 

Comment by Richard ∑wald on April 8, 2012 at 2:50am

"Should somebody who believes in God's existence be called an atheist if they disavow his worthiness?"

Nope.

I agree with you otherwise, I was responding to the first reply (scroll down).

I'll always contend that atheism is a non-belief in any god(s).

You may be interested in this thread, I've been arguing all the same points you've made in your blog post here: Atheism and Agnosticism

Some don't seem to understand that; making the contra-positive claim of "gods do not exist" not only puts the burden of proof squarely on their lap,  …the absence of absolute certain proof of the non-existence of any gods, requires faith.

Please join in, the opposing sophistry has burned me out.

Comment by Atheist Exile on April 8, 2012 at 2:40am

I think that the title, "atheist", is most commonly claimed by people who decide it's reasonable to deny God's existence conditionally: based on the preponderance of evidence. This is not unusual when all evidence seems to point away from God and the supernatural. But, intellectually, they recognize that they have no more proof for his non-existence than the zealot has for his existence.

I don't know about you but if there is a God and he made himself known today, I would no longer be an atheist unless he is the God of the Abrahamic religions -- in which case I would disavow his worthiness and advocate others do the same.

Comment by Atheist Exile on April 8, 2012 at 2:28am

@Richard ∑wald,

"That's not what atheism means, either explicitly or implicitly, …or rationally."

Hence the title of my OP: "Aligning Atheism".

Atheism means, literally, not theism. The most common definition I've seen for the word is "Lack of belief in God." If that's all it takes to be an atheist, then somebody can be an atheist because they dislike or disrespect God -- whether or not they believe he exists. They believe he exists but lack belief in what he represents. Atheists who first turned away from God because of reading the Bible might well have begun with a repulsion of God and only later doubt his existence.

Should somebody who believes in God's existence be called an atheist if they disavow his worthiness?

Comment by Richard ∑wald on April 7, 2012 at 6:46pm

"Concerning what human beings are,agnosticism is always going to be safer than atheism,rationally."

If you see them as competing positions, you can't be seeing them rationally. If you view things "truth" without evidence, you aren't understanding truth rationally.

"But atheism is perfect in view of "such a god is dead".

That's not what atheism means, either explicitly or implicitly, …or rationally.

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