LADZDAZL

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As an atheist I have been reading with interest some of the exchanges in this section of the forum.  It seems a lot of theists are genuinely at a loss as to why some atheists insist that atheism is defined as "not believing in Gods" as opposed to "believing there are no Gods".  I'm one of those who don't really care about the definition as long as people make it clear what their talking about.  But in the spirit of peaceful co-existence(!) I thought I'd explain why I think many atheists are pedantic about this.

To my mind the distinction is not between negative and positive claims but probable and certain claims.  An atheist who says "I don't believe in God" is always, in my experience, happy to say God probably doesn't exist (Dawkins even gives a number on a seven point scale).  (The only exception I can think of might be the theological non-cognitivist who will say that they lack a belief in God because they don't know what the word means but won't make any positive statement about God because... they don't know what the means!)  However if atheism is defined as Belief that God's do not exist the question of whether this assertion is made with 100% confidence or just on the basis of probability is left to the imagination.

Interestingly I saw one comment (from a theist) quite rightly expressing incredulity that anybody would imagine that atheism denotes the 100% certainty that God doesn't exist.  (Sorry I can't find it right now).  This theist quite rightly pointed out that no theist claims 100% certainty so why would anybody expect an atheist to express 100% certainty.  I suspect that a lot of theists assume that atheism is the belief that God probably doesn't exist whereas ironically it is the atheists who think it might mean believe with 100% certainty.  But why is this? 

I think the reason is that a lot of apologetic and especially counter-apologetic does seem to assume that the atheist must demonstrate the lack of God with absolute certainty.  Take the problem of suffering for example.  I've seen WLC debate this many times and what I consider to be his "summary argument" which I have heard every time he speaks on this goes something like "if the atheist wants to prove that God would not have created a world with this much suffering they would need to show how a universe could be created with less suffering in it.  If they cannot do this then they have failed to prove their contention that we would expect to see less suffering in our world if a good God exists".  Now if the motion of the debate was "suffering proves the non-existence of God" this would be OK.  But the argument comes out independent of the wording of the motion, eg "Why does God allow suffering" or "Does the existence of gratuitous suffering support atheism".  Please note, by placing this particular challenge WLC is asking for what would be a cast-iron 100% demonstration that the God of the Bible cannot possibly exist.  If I could show you blueprints for a better universe (which obviously I can't) there would be no question that the universe was not created by the Christian God.  What is even stranger is that WLC in his introductory comments will always go out of his way to "acknowledge that the "problem of evil" is a problem, which does demand an answer".  So his position seems to be that the problem of evil does initially seem to argue against the probability of an omni-benevolent God but that the argument can be dismissed because it fails to achieve 100% certainty.

This is not the only example of counter-apologetics working on the implicit assumption that atheism must be proved 100%.  I can say that the idea of God knowing the future and having free-will seems to cause all sort of logical problems.  WLC can say that if Molinism is true then this could provide a way out.  So divine free will and omniscience could co-exist.  Once having "achieved" this it is declared that another atheistic argument has "failed".  Just as the problem of evil was "defeated".  But if atheism is simply the belief that God probably doesn't exist then the suggestion that theodicies, or Molinism, or existence outside of time could be possible are not a reason to reject atheism.  If all of these things were very, very highly "probable" it would be a reason to reject atheism.  The assertion that all of them are possible is only an effective refutation of "certain atheism", not "probable atheism".

So to summarise I feel that theists who define atheism as "God probably does not exist" are doing so without any desire to misinform or be disingenuous.  But that definition doesn't seem to fit with the challenges and hurdles put before the atheist in debates with apologists.  Atheists pick up on this and the best way to avoid this confusion is to re-word "probably doesn't exist" to "I don't believe in".  I acknowledge that this might allow a game regarding burden of proof but of course most atheists are very happy to provide arguments that can support the positive assertion form of the definition.  It's just easier to say "I don't have to prove atheism because I'm not making the assertion" than it is to say "I don't have to prove atheism because I'm claiming probability, not 100% certainty".

Hope this helps
« Last Edit: January 19, 2015, 12:52:42 am by LADZDAZL »
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Free Will

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Re: Why atheists are sensitive about the defintion of the term atheist
« Reply #1 on: February 17, 2015, 05:57:28 am »
Non-belief concerning God is agnosticism.

Redefining atheism to mean agnosticism is a gross corruption of language and often just a disingenuous ploy to avoid having to defend one's world view.  It is intellectual cowardice.
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jakswan

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Re: Why atheists are sensitive about the defintion of the term atheist
« Reply #2 on: February 17, 2015, 07:15:06 am »
Non-belief concerning God is agnosticism.

No, atheist / theist refers to what you believe, agnostic / gnostic refers to what you claim to know.

I'm an agnostic atheist.

Quote
Redefining atheism to mean agnosticism is a gross corruption of language and often just a disingenuous ploy to avoid having to defend one's world view.  It is intellectual cowardice.

I assume you are afairyist, is this a world view? I didn't play football today is that a sport?

With regard to original post, I think its an attempt to shift the burden of proof.

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Free Will

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Re: Why atheists are sensitive about the defintion of the term atheist
« Reply #3 on: February 17, 2015, 11:11:58 am »
That's the attempted corruption of language. 

Atheism is disbelief in God and gods.

Agnosticism is neither belief nor disbelief, a lack of any belief concerning God or gods,

Theism is belief in God.
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Booger

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Re:
« Reply #4 on: April 13, 2015, 12:23:52 am »
The reason many theists (including myself) don't give a damn about why atheists are sensitive about the definition of the term "atheist" is because saying things like "To my mind the distinction is not between negative and positive claims but probable and certain claims" reduces God to a mere idea. It's insulting.

Translated from the Latin, my signature says, "In the end, we know God as unknown." It's from Thomas Aquinas, so theism's confessed ignorance about God is hardly a new idea.
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LADZDAZL

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Re:
« Reply #5 on: April 13, 2015, 12:59:50 am »
The reason many theists (including myself) don't give a damn about why atheists are sensitive about the definition of the term "atheist" is because saying things like "To my mind the distinction is not between negative and positive claims but probable and certain claims" reduces God to a mere idea. It's insulting.

Translated from the Latin, my signature says, "In the end, we know God as unknown." It's from Thomas Aquinas, so theism's confessed ignorance about God is hardly a new idea.

No idea how that is relevant I'm afraid. You can define God as an idea or anything else you would like to. I am discussing people's opinion about how likely they think it is that God, whatever he is, exists and how we describe these positions.  This forum tends not to discuss degrees of ignorance about God but belief in God.  Perhaps you could expand a little?
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Booger

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Re:
« Reply #6 on: April 13, 2015, 10:33:56 am »
The reason many theists (including myself) don't give a damn about why atheists are sensitive about the definition of the term "atheist" is because saying things like "To my mind the distinction is not between negative and positive claims but probable and certain claims" reduces God to a mere idea. It's insulting.

Translated from the Latin, my signature says, "In the end, we know God as unknown." It's from Thomas Aquinas, so theism's confessed ignorance about God is hardly a new idea.

No idea how that is relevant I'm afraid. You can define God as an idea or anything else you would like to. I am discussing people's opinion about how likely they think it is that God, whatever he is, exists and how we describe these positions.  This forum tends not to discuss degrees of ignorance about God but belief in God.  Perhaps you could expand a little?
No matter how atheism/agnosticism is defined, it always does the same same thing: it reduces belief in God is to a univocal idea. It is no excuse to say many theists do the same thing.
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jakswan

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Re:
« Reply #7 on: April 13, 2015, 12:28:49 pm »
The reason many theists (including myself) don't give a damn about why atheists are sensitive about the definition of the term "atheist" is because saying things like "To my mind the distinction is not between negative and positive claims but probable and certain claims" reduces God to a mere idea. It's insulting.

Translated from the Latin, my signature says, "In the end, we know God as unknown." It's from Thomas Aquinas, so theism's confessed ignorance about God is hardly a new idea.

No idea how that is relevant I'm afraid. You can define God as an idea or anything else you would like to. I am discussing people's opinion about how likely they think it is that God, whatever he is, exists and how we describe these positions.  This forum tends not to discuss degrees of ignorance about God but belief in God.  Perhaps you could expand a little?
No matter how atheism/agnosticism is defined, it always does the same same thing: it reduces belief in God is to a univocal idea. It is no excuse to say many theists do the same thing.

Is your atheism towards Thor the same?

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Booger

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Re:
« Reply #8 on: April 13, 2015, 02:00:47 pm »
The reason many theists (including myself) don't give a damn about why atheists are sensitive about the definition of the term "atheist" is because saying things like "To my mind the distinction is not between negative and positive claims but probable and certain claims" reduces God to a mere idea. It's insulting.

Translated from the Latin, my signature says, "In the end, we know God as unknown." It's from Thomas Aquinas, so theism's confessed ignorance about God is hardly a new idea.

No idea how that is relevant I'm afraid. You can define God as an idea or anything else you would like to. I am discussing people's opinion about how likely they think it is that God, whatever he is, exists and how we describe these positions.  This forum tends not to discuss degrees of ignorance about God but belief in God.  Perhaps you could expand a little?
No matter how atheism/agnosticism is defined, it always does the same same thing: it reduces belief in God is to a univocal idea. It is no excuse to say many theists do the same thing.

Is your atheism towards Thor the same?
Sorry. I don't deal with non sequiturs.
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jakswan

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Re:
« Reply #9 on: April 13, 2015, 02:57:02 pm »
The reason many theists (including myself) don't give a damn about why atheists are sensitive about the definition of the term "atheist" is because saying things like "To my mind the distinction is not between negative and positive claims but probable and certain claims" reduces God to a mere idea. It's insulting.

Translated from the Latin, my signature says, "In the end, we know God as unknown." It's from Thomas Aquinas, so theism's confessed ignorance about God is hardly a new idea.

No idea how that is relevant I'm afraid. You can define God as an idea or anything else you would like to. I am discussing people's opinion about how likely they think it is that God, whatever he is, exists and how we describe these positions.  This forum tends not to discuss degrees of ignorance about God but belief in God.  Perhaps you could expand a little?
No matter how atheism/agnosticism is defined, it always does the same same thing: it reduces belief in God is to a univocal idea. It is no excuse to say many theists do the same thing.

Is your atheism towards Thor the same?
Sorry. I don't deal with non sequiturs.

With regard to Thor you are an atheist aren't you?

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Booger

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Re:
« Reply #10 on: April 13, 2015, 03:29:17 pm »
The reason many theists (including myself) don't give a damn about why atheists are sensitive about the definition of the term "atheist" is because saying things like "To my mind the distinction is not between negative and positive claims but probable and certain claims" reduces God to a mere idea. It's insulting.

Translated from the Latin, my signature says, "In the end, we know God as unknown." It's from Thomas Aquinas, so theism's confessed ignorance about God is hardly a new idea.

No idea how that is relevant I'm afraid. You can define God as an idea or anything else you would like to. I am discussing people's opinion about how likely they think it is that God, whatever he is, exists and how we describe these positions.  This forum tends not to discuss degrees of ignorance about God but belief in God.  Perhaps you could expand a little?
No matter how atheism/agnosticism is defined, it always does the same same thing: it reduces belief in God is to a univocal idea. It is no excuse to say many theists do the same thing.

Is your atheism towards Thor the same?
Sorry. I don't deal with non sequiturs.

With regard to Thor you are an atheist aren't you?
See answer above. It's a nonsense question.
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HaWeHa

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Re: Why atheists are sensitive about the defintion of the term atheist
« Reply #11 on: November 02, 2015, 04:58:49 pm »
I admit that I take offence from the notion
"ATheists say there is no G-D"
My counter-notion is that
"Babys are ATheists"
which simply refers to the very essence of "A"Theism,
namely the "A"bsence of the fabrication of the conceptual=immaterial product  aka
"Religious Faith" or "Theism"
Babys are just incapable of fabricating Theism
which would be "there IS! a G-D"
They are also incapable of fabricating the converse of Theism
which would be "there is NO G-D"
which is a Religious Faith TOO.
I call this kind of Religious Faith ANTI-Theism
I agree with Psalm 14:1 "The fool has said..."
Yet I am an ATheist.

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noncontingent

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Re: Why atheists are sensitive about the defintion of the term atheist
« Reply #12 on: November 10, 2018, 08:13:48 am »
I don't know about you, but when someone starts a thread with multiple, paragraphs, I'm automatically suspicious that my interaction with the thread is simply as a rag used to shine the shoe of the poster so they can better see their own glorious image. A little more Hemingway and a little less Michener.
« Last Edit: November 10, 2018, 08:19:22 am by noncontingent »