Atheists, by and large, have let their opponents define them in the public mind by what they do not believe.  And I strongly suspect that actually is a fair way to describe most atheists.

But there is another breed of atheist:  An atheist with a body of positive beliefs that either makes the existence of god irrelevant or implies that god does not exist.

An atheist of this sort can fairly be called a technical atheist (let us say, by definition) -- in contrast with the prototypical, purely negative atheist that exists in the minds of most religious people.  (And perhaps in the minds of most atheists, too?)

For the technical atheist, the existence of god is merely a side issue, not the main show or the core issue of life.  And certainly not the issue that should be the main line of division between people in Western civilization.

In sorting out the concept of technical atheism, there is more to be said, especially on the possibilities for a body of positive beliefs that is compatible with atheism -- or more accurately, on what might be called a proper body of positive beliefs, actually for anyone.

(Oh, my goodness.  Did I fail to mention that I am a technical atheist myself and that I am looking for other technical atheists?)

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Tags: atheist, beliefs, body, of, proper, prototypical, technical

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Comment by Luara on March 3, 2014 at 4:33pm

The sad truth of the matter is that I was required by my parents to go to Sunday School as a child and to attend Church as a teenager.

So you are one of those people who never took religion seriously even as a child?  who doesn't have a believing bone or brain in you? 

I didn't mean that "technical atheists" are people who come from non-religious families, rather the converse - people who come from non-religious families are likely to be "technical atheists".

Comment by Joseph Hilton on March 3, 2014 at 3:06pm

The sad truth of the matter is that I was required by my parents to go to Sunday School as a child and to attend Church as a teenager.  But since I decided when i was ten that the thing I wanted most out of life was a girl to sleep with, the time I spent in these places was not entirely wasted.

It is also true that I believe we all have the same father.  He is called "Mother Nature."

Comment by Luara on March 3, 2014 at 1:53pm

the term technical atheist means an atheist who does not take the issue of the existence or non-existence of a god as his or her starting point and arrives at a worldview in which either no god exists or the question of the existence of anything of a supernatural sort is irrelevant.

This sounds rather like people who were brought up non-religious, so they don't struggle with early religious conditioning. 

Comment by Michael Penn on March 3, 2014 at 1:02pm

You are unsure about the numbers and we all have the same father.

Somehow this is all starting to feel very familiar to me!

Comment by Joseph Hilton on March 3, 2014 at 8:03am

In my mind, the term technical atheist means an atheist who does not take the issue of the existence or non-existence of a god as his or her starting point and arrives at a worldview in which either no god exists or the question of the existence of anything of a supernatural sort is irrelevant.  The reason I see this distinction as important is that I, as a technical atheist, have always tended to shy away from the atheist label because it's so far removed from the issues of central concern to me.  Yet technical atheists are still atheists and are the natural allies of atheists in their other forms.  It would, I think, be nice to recognize them as members of the atheist community to make them feel welcome to it.  I'm not exactly sure about putting it this way yet, but it may be the same sort of thing as when legitimate children recognize that a bastard child is also a member of the family because they all have the same father.  (I have to admit, however, that I am unsure about the numbers involved here.)

Comment by Gregory Phillip Dearth on March 2, 2014 at 11:18pm

Technical vs. prototechnical.... interesting. But the distinction you are setting is already covered by the terms gnostic and agnostic. An agnostic atheist rejects god claims due to the inability to meet the burden of proof but does not claim to know for a fact that no gods exist. A gnostic atheist, or strong atheist, not only rehects god claims but claims the positive position to be true that no gods actuall exist. Does technical/prototechnical add anything beyond the definitions already handled by these widely used terms? 

Comment by Joseph Hilton on February 27, 2014 at 11:34am

I once spent a five-year stretch teaching calculus to engineers -- but that was back in the days when you could see individual bits in the memory of a computer and lovingly admire individual transistors on a circuit board.

Comment by Loren Miller on February 27, 2014 at 11:04am

Well ... you probably will find a lot of "technical atheists" around A|N.  Me?  I'm an engineering atheist - BSEE, as it happens!  [grin]

One peculiarity about me is that I'm not much for the word, "belief," mostly because it's too much associated with the guys in the other camp.  In line with that, I rather like the phrase:

I don't want to believe; I want to know.
-- Carl Sagan

While I will stipulate that there are a lot of unknown things out there and also that nothing can be known for Absolute Certain, the kind of practical certainty I entertain as an engineer is far more than enough for me.  Knowing things like the laws of physics, of cause and effect, and the general behavioral rules which govern reality as we know it leaves little room for a meddling deity, especially when every time we learn something new, there's that much less possibility that said deity is twiddling knobs behind our collective backs.  Then, when it comes to the larger questions, such as the Big Bang and what caused that, and someone like Lawrence Krauss asserts that quantum physics allows for the BB to trigger itself, wiggle room for Yahweh diminishes even more drastically.

Put briefly, it's less what I might believe than it is what I know which dismisses any kind of god for me ... and I like it that way.

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