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God, Life

Weak Atheism

I’d like to talk about something that I found strange lately.  It’s the redefinition of the term atheism.  I have a dictionary from about 20 years ago (Webster’s if you care).  In it the definition for atheist is a person who believes there is no god.  That has shifted to someone with no belief in any gods.  I asked a person who self described as an atheist why they thought that was.  His thought was it was to fit with how people used the word.

I think he was mostly right.  But if the definition meant belief there was no god why didn’t people use it that way (especially when agnostic has essentially the same meaning as atheism now).  I think they  use (and used) it that way because they can’t defend their position.  It takes no time talking to an atheist for it to become obvious that they believe there is no god.  However if you ask them to justify their position they will quickly say “atheism doesn’t say there is no god” because they know they can’t prove their position and they’re big on insisting on proof from Christians.  They like to pretend they only believe in things that can be proven.  That is not true.  They believe life can come from non-life.  They believe that everything can come from nothing (because time and space can’t be eternal both logically and scientifically).  When I bring up those two things they usually respond with something like, “well I trust that science will explain that some day.”  That is a cop out.  I’m sorry if I hurt someone’s feelings but it is.  You can’t claim that it’s illogical to believe in God if He can’t be proven and then say it’s logical to believe life can come from non-life.  There is no known mechanism for that to occur.  It’s not just chemistry.  If you take a dead frog and blend him up in a blender you have all the chemicals necessary for life, but nothing you do to it will create life.  It just doesn’t happen.

So really I think atheists just don’t have the courage of their convictions.  They don’t want to defend their beliefs they only want to attack yours.

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Discussion

10 thoughts on “Weak Atheism

  1. Your ad hominem circumstantial is duly noted.

    Posted by danielwalldammit | April 15, 2016, 1:13 pm
  2. Hi Daniel,
    You accused me of making an ad hominem attack. The definition of that logical fallacy is:

    (of an argument or reaction) directed against a person rather than the position they are maintaining.

    In my post I am not attacking any person, only their method in debating. So that doesn’t really apply. For example if I said, “Bob the atheist is wrong because you can’t trust a guy that smells funny” that would be ad hominem. I wasn’t even really making a case for my position in this post (or I would have put a lot more in it). I was merely pointing out that having a belief that there is no god and then when someone questions you on it suddenly insisting you don’t is disingenuous.

    As to it being circumstantial, you say that like it’s a bad thing. Sometimes all we have is circumstantial evidence. You can be convicted of a crime based solely on circumstantial evidence. This is nothing new. I think perhaps people’s idea of what is and what isn’t valid evidence has been seriously compromised by shows like CSI.

    Posted by Far Out Madman | April 15, 2016, 1:28 pm
  3. To correctly define it would be… agnostic atheist or atheist atheist. I know, that sounds odd, but it’s true. There’s even this whole theist vs non theist chart that shows it. There is a form of atheism that means the person doesn’t believe there is a god, we can’t yet know if or who the God would be if it does exist… and there is a form of atheism that believes militantly that God does not exist. But either way, the idea is that we DON’T believe in something. That’s the point. Even if someone says they definitively believe there is no god, they don’t need proof for such a belief. Do you believe there is a million dollar check in my hand right now with your name on it? To say that you do not believe in such a thing would merely require you to say there is not enough proof to convince you of such a thing and that the probability of what life has shown you thus far tells you that I’m lying. I could easily say the exact same thing about a god.
    I personally don’t believe there is a god. I don’t believe there is no god, simply don’t believe there is. That is not a change in definition but a clarifying of definition. Don’t fault us for that.
    To go further, I would say that most theists in debate do not want to prove a god, they want to prove Jesus/Yahweh. For that debate, I could prove and argue my proof all day long that if there is a god, it is without a shadow of a doubt not the god of the bible.
    Either way, there is no definitive proof of any god, so why expect people to believe? And why be upset when, with further development, we further develop the defining of what we hold to? Believers in god have done the same for thousands of years, just take the Trinity for example. No one believed in such a thing within the Judeo-Christian faith just two thousand years ago. Pagans did, but that’s a whole other story.

    Posted by Charlie King | April 15, 2016, 2:53 pm
    • Hi Charlie,

      Thanks for writing. Having terms like “agnostic atheist” or “atheist atheist” is exactly the thing I’m pointing out. Why would you not use the term agnostic? It carries the same meaning. An agnostic doesn’t believe in any specific god yet they would say that they don’t know if one exists or not.

      You are correct when you say that having a belief there is no god requires no proof. You aren’t required to have proof for anything you believe. However in general how this comes up is that someone will say something like, “Your God is a myth.” I’ll say something like, “Prove to me that He is a myth.” They will then say “Hey I just don’t believe, I don’t have to prove God doesn’t exist.” Well if you’re in a discussion with someone and you make a specific claim (saying God is a myth is a claim) then the burden is on them to prove their claim. At that point they are making a truth statement. To say that a theist’s truth statements all need to be proven but an atheist’s don’t is rigging the game.

      As to your check analogy I would have to say I’m check agnostic. To say that no such check exists isn’t something I could know. You could have written a bad check. You could be wealthy and feel like spreading the wealth around. I might say I don’t think it’s likely and if you said you had one I might ask you to prove it, but I would never tell you your check was a myth.

      “I personally don’t believe there is a god. I don’t believe there is no god, simply don’t believe there is.“

      Then you are agnostic by the definition 20 years ago, not an atheist. Personally I don’t know why it would be important to self-identify as an atheist. It seems to be to you though.

      “That is not a change in definition but a clarifying of definition.”

      So to clarify the definition we have two definitions to the one word and one matches an existing word. Got it

      Posted by Far Out Madman | April 15, 2016, 4:04 pm
      • Okay well, I hear what you’re saying but I don’t think your standards are the same across the board. I hear you saying that we are rigging the game but in my experience that’s what Christians do far more often. Regardless of that, you’re pointing to a definition from the past and saying that that is what I should be held to. Like I said, progression. And as I also said, look at Christianity.
        Your biggest problem seems to be that I need to self identify as an atheist when I’m “really agnostic.” I have two counter points for that.
        One, I don’t need to identify that way, but if I’m asked what my faith/belief system is I would have to answer honestly in saying I have none. I don’t believe in a god. So no, I can’t be agnostic because like you said, agnostic is the belief that there is a god but I don’t know which or where. Being open to the possibility of a god if proven does not mean I do believe in one right now.
        Secondly, and honestly, this destroys your entire argument… You’re saying… “So to clarify the definition we have two definitions to the one word and one matches an existing word. Got it…”
        Do you though? You’re Christian I presume? Uh, I’m pretty sure there are about an easy ten definitions to that word that I can shoot off without even trying. So, your arrogance is misplaced, sir. Put in on your own belief system’s defining word.

        Posted by Charlie King | April 15, 2016, 7:24 pm
      • While I do think the older definition is the better and clearer one I don’t really expect it to change back. Language is fluid (especially English). I am not sure if the change came about because atheists wanted less accountability (not quite the right word but the best I can seem to come up with) or if agnostics wanted to call themselves atheists. Probably both.

        To be agnostic you don’t need to believe there is a god, you just don’t know. I think that’s the category you fall into (not really sure as I don’t really know you).

        And that last sentence was a bit tongue in cheek. I however don’t think your comparison to denominations within Christianity is a fair comparison. I had a discussion with someone who presented someone to me as a Christian scholar that said that Jesus was/is not God. I told him I wouldn’t probably consider them a Christian. There are certain minimum requirements for someone to be a Christian and believing Jesus is God would, to me, seem to be one of them. There are a number of things that Christians disagree on. But those are secondary. Much like a difference between two atheists where one believes in gradual evolution and one believes in punctuated equilibrium. Both atheists but the disagree on secondary things.

        Posted by Far Out Madman | April 15, 2016, 8:25 pm
  4. Curious about your take on ignosticism. Frankly, I’ve only found 3-4 people who could give me a coherent explanation of WTF they were talking about when they said “god”. Drawing broad, theist/atheist distinction glosses over the fact that there are specific issues of contention.

    Posted by keithnoback | April 16, 2016, 4:06 am
    • Hi Keith

      My understanding of ignosticism is that you have definition of God before you can discuss Him. I suppose it depends on how far you take it. I don’t think you can fully understand God. Even the Bible says as much. So if by definition you were looking for a full understanding then it’s doomed to fail.

      However if you are content with a definition that leaves questions then it seems logical to want a definition. Most of the time when discussing God with atheists they tend to have a picture of God that is more like Zeus (a finite created God) than an eternal being. There are things about God I don’t feel we can fully understand and at times that creates divergent understandings about God. Like the nature of the trinity. God is 3 and 1. Some people I know divide Him up in a way similar to polytheists. They are 3 with one purpose and title. However I think that ignores the eternal all knowing aspect of God. How can the three be truly independent if they are all eternal and all knowing. I don’t claim to fully understand the relationship between the parts of the trinity but as God is a vastly different type of being than I am I’m ok with that.

      That was probably a bit rambling but I hope it answers your question.

      Posted by Far Out Madman | April 16, 2016, 6:08 am
      • In this case, I take it that knowing is used metaphorically, to stand in for whatever it is that a non-temporal, limitless being does(?). But metaphor applies to the extras. It can refine understanding, not produce it. I don’t see how one can even begin to describe how the whole thing works.

        Posted by keithnoback | April 18, 2016, 4:47 am
      • Like I said, there are things we will never know about God because He is too different from our world. There are ways He chooses to describe Himself that helps but I don’t know that we will ever fully understand who He is in His essence. I suspect not.

        Posted by Far Out Madman | April 18, 2016, 10:12 am

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