Definitions of atheism and agnosticism

Jan 6, 2010 Full story: The Lippard Blog 229

I recently posted this at the Phoenix Atheists Meetup group's discussion forum in a thread titled "atheism v. agnosticism," and thought it might be worth reposting here: There are lots of ways to define these terms, to the extent that you can't be sure how people are using them unless you ask.

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nina

Ottawa, Canada

#1 Jan 6, 2010
I think strong/weak atheism are stupid terms

an atheist is an atheist is an atheist

there are no degrees of it

an atheist by any other name is still a non-beleiver
Houle

United States

#2 Jan 6, 2010
Free labels to stereotype yourself into irrelevance!
trollbuster

Sevierville, TN

#3 Jan 6, 2010
Agnostics recognize that God's existence can not be adequately evaluated. Some decide to believe anyway (why I don't know), some simply leave the question alone and get on with their lives, and some of us decide that God's existence is far too improbable to take seriously. Our natural or acquired skepticism overrides the pressure to conform to the cultural norms in our societies.

A tiny minority of atheists actively believe in the nonexistence of all deities, but most of us acknowledge that the question is unanswerable. I've been reading and writing here for quite some time, and the points of view among the nonbelievers here are staggering in their diversity. Atheist as a label is stereotypical only to a shallow and uninformed minds.

Since: Dec 09

Pelham, AL

#4 Jan 12, 2010
I would dispute that there is even such a thing as an "agnostic" for the term as coined described a method not a philosophical position. In basic terms it puts forth that one cannot make definitive representations with insufficient evidence to support same and the agnostic method was used to separate that which was known to be true from that which was not. A seive as it were. The word is an adjective, not a noun. Agnostic atheist, agnostic christian, agnostic molecular biologist, etc.

Furthermore, atheism is a theistic concept born from trying to describe those who do not definitively believe. There is no grey, you either believe or you don't, and if you don't you're an atheist. There is no middle ground, it is a black or white proposition.

I am an atheist. I am an atheist because I have never been presented with a physical or philosophical reason to even consider the proposition of the supernatural outside of the unsupported protestations of various adherents much less any supporting evidence. To hold that it is possible utilizing the lack of perfect data and perfect knowledge ignores the probabilities in play. I am quite comfortable saying that tomorrow morning as I walk out my door that I will not be struck down by death rays from mars because even as my knowledge of mars, it's possible inhabitants and their potential level of technical sophistication is less than perfect, the fact that there is no evidence in existence from our examinations of the planet in question that would suggest otherwise compells it's very high probability. Arguing this assertion of mine based on what is currently known to be true would be ignorant.

Personally, I find the entire "agnostic" business to be intellectually dishonest, a way to avoid telling the truth of the matter as known at the time to the "adherent". Essentially, philosophical cowardice.

If you do not definitively believe in an immanent, supreme being at this particular moment in time with all your heart and all your supernatural soul then you my friend are an atheist whether you have the courage to admit it or not.

“Quantum Junctn: Use Both Lanes”

Since: Dec 06

Tulsa, Oklahoma USofA

#5 Jan 12, 2010
JimX wrote:
If you do not definitively believe in an immanent, supreme being at this particular moment in time with all your heart and all your supernatural soul then you my friend are an atheist whether you have the courage to admit it or not.
Okay.

What, prey tell is this "supernatural soul" you speak of?

I'm not familiar with it in any biology books I've encountered; no mention.

Hmmm.

“Quantum Junctn: Use Both Lanes”

Since: Dec 06

Tulsa, Oklahoma USofA

#6 Jan 12, 2010
nina wrote:
I think strong/weak atheism are stupid terms
an atheist is an atheist is an atheist
there are no degrees of it
an atheist by any other name is still a non-beleiver
I would agree-- only because I know what **you** mean when you say "atheist".

That would include the likes of me as well.

However.

That being said? I rarely use the term on myself, because of the false straw-man definition commonly used by theists.

Even the most liberal believer-type is often wrong about what "atheist" means and the consequences of it.

Not long ago, I was in a discussion with a very liberal (theologically-speaking) minster, who decreed that an atheist really did not have a tenable position.

'what' I asked.

His misguided reply,'The atheist who declares there is positively no god is as faithful as the believer who declares there is.'

This from a theologically liberal guy, who's a philosophy major!

So I typically just avoid the word alltogether, and say I'm an unbeliever.

Or I proudly say I'm an EX-christian-- emphasis on the "ex" part.

Pride? You betcha: it's not easy de-brainwashing yourself.

And I admire **anyone** who has, from any point in their lives.

Since: Dec 09

Pelham, AL

#7 Jan 12, 2010
Bob of Quantum-Faith wrote:
<quoted text>
Okay.
What, prey tell is this "supernatural soul" you speak of?
I'm not familiar with it in any biology books I've encountered; no mention.
Hmmm.
I believe that was the point old bean ;-)

“Quantum Junctn: Use Both Lanes”

Since: Dec 06

Tulsa, Oklahoma USofA

#8 Jan 12, 2010
JimX wrote:
<quoted text>
I believe that was the point old bean ;-)
Indeed. Point taken.

:)
jack13

El Paso, TX

#9 Jan 13, 2010
Bob of Quantum-Faith wrote:
<quoted text>
Indeed. Point taken.
:)
The term, strong and weak atheist is BS invented by religion. I have yet to meat an atheist that did not use the following statement of their lack of faith in any god. I can find no evidence of the existence of any god, so I will get on with my life. But if you can show any concrete proof of any god that can be verified, then I will rethink my position. Now that would seem to indicate we are all agnostics in a way. Contrast this to those who believe in a god. No matter what evidence is presented indicating some segment of their religion is false, they will maintain they are being attacked and you are just ignorant. In other words, they are locked into a dogma that is unchanging. A atheist has nothing to lose in his statement. It is logical to admit you do not know every thing, but logic points to the non-existence of a god. Christians say, the devil made you say that and you are evil even to suggest god does not exist. Why are you attacking god? To me, the religious position is not only weird, but nuts.

“Quantum Junctn: Use Both Lanes”

Since: Dec 06

Tulsa, Oklahoma USofA

#10 Jan 13, 2010
jack13 wrote:
<quoted text> The term, strong and weak atheist is BS invented by religion. I have yet to meat an atheist that did not use the following statement of their lack of faith in any god. I can find no evidence of the existence of any god, so I will get on with my life. But if you can show any concrete proof of any god that can be verified, then I will rethink my position. Now that would seem to indicate we are all agnostics in a way. Contrast this to those who believe in a god. No matter what evidence is presented indicating some segment of their religion is false, they will maintain they are being attacked and you are just ignorant. In other words, they are locked into a dogma that is unchanging. A atheist has nothing to lose in his statement. It is logical to admit you do not know every thing, but logic points to the non-existence of a god. Christians say, the devil made you say that and you are evil even to suggest god does not exist. Why are you attacking god? To me, the religious position is not only weird, but nuts.
I agree, Jack-- completely.

There was a survey done not that long ago, wherein people were asked:'if there was scientific evidence proving a certain aspect of what you believe, entirely false, would you still believe it'

The majority taking the poll, said 'yes'.

Which to me, is baffling.

Even in my most deepest mode of religious belief, I listened to the evidence, if presented.

I suppose that is why I'm an unbeliever today.

*sigh*
jack13

El Paso, TX

#11 Jan 13, 2010
Bob of Quantum-Faith wrote:
<quoted text>
I agree, Jack-- completely.
There was a survey done not that long ago, wherein people were asked:'if there was scientific evidence proving a certain aspect of what you believe, entirely false, would you still believe it'
The majority taking the poll, said 'yes'.
Which to me, is baffling.
Even in my most deepest mode of religious belief, I listened to the evidence, if presented.
I suppose that is why I'm an unbeliever today.
*sigh*
All these religions description of their brand of god reminds me of the 6 or was it 8 blind men describing an elephant, except these religious sects gods are invisible and no evidence any of them ever existed.
nina

Ottawa, Canada

#12 Jan 13, 2010
Bob of Quantum-Faith wrote:
<quoted text>
I would agree-- only because I know what **you** mean when you say "atheist".
..... a very liberal (theologically-speaking) minster...misguided reply,'The atheist who declares there is positively no god is as faithful as the believer who declares there is.'
...
whoa, and I thought he would have at least been educated enough to understand the whole latin "a" added to a word thing to mean without.

I have begun to lean towards anti-theist - with a focus on being against beleivers.

since it's really them that need to be opposed, the idea is almost beside the point, since most believers cannot articulate their beleif - they are just interesting in using a vague beleif to attempt to control other people's behavior.

and that must be resisted

did you hear that China now has legal gay marriage?

“Quantum Junctn: Use Both Lanes”

Since: Dec 06

Tulsa, Oklahoma USofA

#13 Jan 13, 2010
nina wrote:
did you hear that China now has legal gay marriage?
No...cool, if true.

Linky?

“Quantum Junctn: Use Both Lanes”

Since: Dec 06

Tulsa, Oklahoma USofA

#14 Jan 13, 2010
nina wrote:
did you hear that China now has legal gay marriage?
I was suddenly struck by this thought:

Rue the day, that Communist China shows superior morality and egalitarianism than does the US....

*sigh*

That **China** would be in the position to teach the US a lesson about civil liberty!

It's a sad, sad day for the US.

“Quantum Junctn: Use Both Lanes”

Since: Dec 06

Tulsa, Oklahoma USofA

#15 Jan 13, 2010
... that the US has sunk so low...

*sigh*

Since: Dec 09

Pelham, AL

#16 Jan 14, 2010
I too had my curiousity piqued but try as I might I could not find anything detailing a relaxing of the marriage rules in China. From what I could glean from sniffing various news outlets, the chinese dont really care for the most part, gay bashing is unheard of virtually. The few rules with respect to sodomy have been repealed. The only thing stopping it is the inability of the involved parties to procreate thus creating the potential for an end to certain bloodlines etc. Currently there is only support from about 30% of the populace so I can't see a groundswell anytime soon.

It was noteworthy though that the indigeneous religions had no stand on the subject and their respective dogmas contained no prohibitions which more than likely contributes to the average citizen not really caring one way or the other what who does to whom and where. Being gay may not have the luxury of being codified by law but one would appear to be free to do whatever they wish in effect without fear of reprisal which is far more civilized than what is happening in the Land of the Free (tm) atm.
Cujo

Regina, Canada

#17 Jan 14, 2010
trollbuster wrote:
Agnostics recognize that God's existence can not be adequately evaluated. Some decide to believe anyway (why I don't know), some simply leave the question alone and get on with their lives, and some of us decide that God's existence is far too improbable to take seriously. Our natural or acquired skepticism overrides the pressure to conform to the cultural norms in our societies.
A tiny minority of atheists actively believe in the nonexistence of all deities, but most of us acknowledge that the question is unanswerable. I've been reading and writing here for quite some time, and the points of view among the nonbelievers here are staggering in their diversity. Atheist as a label is stereotypical only to a shallow and uninformed minds.
I have a small problem with the question being unanswerable. This could be said about any fairy tale. It's like saying there could be pink unicorns in a super natural world.

To me the question of god is answered. Without evidence, there is no god, or at very least, no reason to believe in him.
nina

Ottawa, Canada

#18 Jan 14, 2010
Bob of Quantum-Faith wrote:
<quoted text>
No...cool, if true.
Linky?
read it on CNN.com yesterday

http://www.terradaily.com/reports/China_paper...

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/chin...

http://news.globaltv.com/entertainment/China+... +(Global+News+-+World)
nina

Ottawa, Canada

#19 Jan 14, 2010
Bob of Quantum-Faith wrote:
<quoted text>
I was suddenly struck by this thought:
Rue the day, that Communist China shows superior morality and egalitarianism ....
Communist China has always been more egalitarian that most countries and all Western ones

since the West has more levels of society from extreme poor to extreme rich and many levels in between

China has mostly had 2 - non-party poor and party rich

they are now dealing with a middle class

“Honorary Squirrel Buster”

Since: Apr 07

Tulsa, OK

#20 Jan 14, 2010
nina wrote:
I think strong/weak atheism are stupid terms
an atheist is an atheist is an atheist
there are no degrees of it
an atheist by any other name is still a non-beleiver
Strong atheism is the positive assertion there is no god. Weak atheism is the more common position that we simply lack belief in one.

The difference is subtle but important.

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