Atheism and Agnosticism

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"The self-proclaimed agnostic must still designate whether he does or does not believe in a god - and, in doing so, he commits himself to theism or to atheism. But he does commit himself. Agnosticism is not the escape clause that it is commonly thought to be."

--George H. Smith, Atheism: The Case Against God
 

BoulderHead

Artorius said:
"The self-proclaimed agnostic must still designate whether he does or does not believe in a god - and, in doing so, he commits himself to theism or to atheism. But he does commit himself. Agnosticism is not the escape clause that it is commonly thought to be."

--George H. Smith, Atheism: The Case Against God
Very true and that is just another reason why atheism is the word I prefer to use.
 
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Anthony Flew, a famous proponent of atheism who recently changed his mind, always delineated between two kinds of atheism. There is the positive atheist who denies the existence of a god and there is the negative atheist who is not a theist because he lacks sufficient reason to believe in a god. I think the difference between an agnostic and a negative atheist is that the negative atheist could be persuaded to acknowledge a deity whereas the agnostic would say it's impossible to know. A positive atheist concludes using some form of reasoning that there is no god.
 
You can argue symantics etimology and origins of words all day but what it comes down to in the end is the common conception of those words meanings if you actually intend to communicate your ideas to someone.
Common definition of the word "athiest": One that believes god does not exist.
Common definition of the word "agnostic": One who does not believe one way or the other in the existence of god.
If you ask an agnostic "Do you believe god exists?", then by a strict logic it would have to answer no.
But at the same time if you ask an agnostic "Do you believe that god does not exist?" again by the same strict rules an agnostic would have to answer no.
BoulderHead said:
People have, in times past, been labeled ‘atheist’ for having belief in certain god(s) instead of others and I think in this day and age such thinking can be seen absurd.
I've seen such outmoded definitions for words like heathen, gentile, and pagan but never athiest. Could you site an example?
 

BoulderHead

You can argue symantics etimology and origins of words all day but what it comes down to in the end is the common conception of those words meanings if you actually intend to communicate your ideas to someone.
Yes, which is why the common definitions you went on to describe are not the end of this story. The intelligent speaker understands his audience and adjusts what is said to suit different groups or individuals in order to convey the clearest possible meaning. In some circumstances non-theist might be better understood than atheist.

I've seen such outmoded definitions for words like heathen, gentile, and pagan but never athiest. Could you site an example?
At the time I said that I was thinking of Romans accusing those who did not (or would not) worship their gods (or emperor), of atheism.
 
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Interesting.

russ_watters said:
That's agnostic. Athiesm is a positive belief that god doesn't exist.
TheStatutoryApe said:
Common definition of the word "athiest": One that believes god does not exist.
Personally, I find that the word "God" is insufficiently defined and therefore does not reference anything at all. Is not accepting that a word is properly defined the same as having a positive belief that something does not exist? I mean, if a word hasn't sufficient meaning to be even considered for existence, then surely it doesn't exist. However, that seems tautological.

I mean, I'm not agnostic on whether slithey tothes, the jabberwok, light-dark mumblies or fuzchiwonks exist. On the other hand, is it acceptable to say that I have a positive belief that slithey tothes do not exist? I mean, the word doesn't mean anything. I can't be any less positive about anything about it, and at the same time, can't be any less agnostic on whether I think it's there.

There seems to me to be a false dichotomy afoot.

In otherwords, I find your definition of atheist too strict. Saying I have a positive belief there is no god would, in my opinion, be misrepresenting my views. Saying that I am not commited to whether it exists or not would also be in error. I find there is not even an idea with which to have belief or not have belief. I suppose you can call me whatever you like, but it would seem to me I'm more an atheist than an agnostic.
 

loseyourname

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Non-cognitivism, eh? I've always considered that an interesting idea, even though I don't buy the empirical verification theory of meaning. What exactly does the word "God" refer to?
 
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could u plz explain the basics of the empirical verification theory of meaning? ty
 

loseyourname

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3mpathy said:
could u plz explain the basics of the empirical verification theory of meaning? ty
The only factually meaningful statements are those that can, in principle, be verified empirically. By this standard, the statement "God exists" is factually meaningless without a clear formulation of what "God" means (clear meaning empirically verifiable).
 
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loseyourname said:
The only factually meaningful statements are those that can, in principle, be verified empirically. By this standard, the statement "God exists" is factually meaningless without a clear formulation of what "God" means (clear meaning empirically verifiable).
I disagree, everything makes sense given the certain context, and, as for the "meaning", well, it has more to it than what meets the eye, meaning is a requirement of our flawed perception, life and everything surrounding it, is just a micro system within the universe, and we (humam beings) are a system within life's system, a program, a bio-machine, and our basic instructions are to grow, feed, and reproduce, every other instructions that humans now possess where gained with time and we have to remember that the humam being broke quite some rules within is nature to became what it is now. What I'm trying to say is that with all this time the humam program/consciousness had suffer some major changes, either way, the ability to perceive is something so complex that could suffer some drastic errors, for instance, imagine this:

we create a super computer with the purpose of descriving flavor, for that to be possible, this computer would have to possess some AI and we would have try to teach it what flavor does consist, when we gave it an apple, how could we know that the apple would taste for it?
given this another question emerges, how can I know that an apple taste equal to you compared how it tastes to me? we can never know if our perceptions are the same, could we?
 
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Ronhrin said:
I disagree...

Loseyourname was defining the concept for someone, not defending it. So you are disagreeing with a definition, but didn't make a case for that.

.....

Loseyourname said:
even though I don't buy the empirical verification theory of meaning.
I don't know whether I hold that either. At least, I don't require that the definition of God be empirically verifiable. Pretty much any definition that is consistent between people using the word and contains words which have meaning would be fine with me.

Anyhow, this morning I am more curious than ever to hear exactly what word describes my religious beliefs best from those so sure in their definitions. Someone could ask me any minute today, and how would I reply without some guidance first? I need a label, and quick!
 
So, would Atheist Agnosticism be even more logical than Agnosticism?

Atheist Agnosticism

- It is possible that God exists. Other religious beliefs are possibly correct.
- The belief that logic suggests that it is most likely God doesn't exist.
- We cannot know at this time whether God exists, and perhaps we will never be able to know.
- Not believing in God or that God doesn't exist.
- Believing in possibilities with Atheism being proclaimed the most likely possibility.
 
Locrian said:
Interesting.
Personally, I find that the word "God" is insufficiently defined and therefore does not reference anything at all. Is not accepting that a word is properly defined the same as having a positive belief that something does not exist? I mean, if a word hasn't sufficient meaning to be even considered for existence, then surely it doesn't exist. However, that seems tautological.

I mean, I'm not agnostic on whether slithey tothes, the jabberwok, light-dark mumblies or fuzchiwonks exist. On the other hand, is it acceptable to say that I have a positive belief that slithey tothes do not exist? I mean, the word doesn't mean anything. I can't be any less positive about anything about it, and at the same time, can't be any less agnostic on whether I think it's there.

There seems to me to be a false dichotomy afoot.

In otherwords, I find your definition of atheist too strict. Saying I have a positive belief there is no god would, in my opinion, be misrepresenting my views. Saying that I am not commited to whether it exists or not would also be in error. I find there is not even an idea with which to have belief or not have belief. I suppose you can call me whatever you like, but it would seem to me I'm more an atheist than an agnostic.
This to me just seems silly. There is a basic broad spectrum definition of the word God. The problem with coming at it the way that you are is that it is not an equation or scientific theorum and there for can not be measured in that manner. Your arguement holds just as well for things such as beauty and art. There is no manner with which to define these things sufficiantly for empirical verification yet I doubt that you would refer to the words as meaningless. If you could sufficiently define "God" in a scientific manner then you would be able to see if it is verifiable and the problem of defining where a person stands on the subject would be pointless.
And yes, if you believe that the word god is ill defined and meaningless then you would likely be labeled an athiest.
 
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Is there such a thing as an agnostic who believes in God?

What I think I mean by that is someone who believes in God but also belives that fact can't be proven or disproven.
 
I think that may have very well been the original definition of the word.
From what I remember when I first read about it it was supposed to be an antonym like athiest except instead of being based from the word thiest it's based from the word gnostic. One of the fundamental points of the gnostic practice was to have direct knowledge and experience of god. Agnostic I believe was supposed to mean someone who believes the oposite of that, that it's not possible.
 
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TheStatutoryApe said:
Your arguement holds just as well for things such as beauty and art. There is no manner with which to define these things sufficiantly for empirical verification yet I doubt that you would refer to the words as meaningless. If you could sufficiently define "God" in a scientific manner then you would be able to see if it is verifiable and the problem of defining where a person stands on the subject would be pointless.
You suggest that I want "God" defined in a "scientific manner", and yet I never said anything of the sort. I'm not sure how you were confused, but I did not use that description, and for a reason. If you find what I wrote silly, it might be because you are putting words in my post I would never use, and then attempting to apply them in ways I would never choose to.

It is true that the word art has more than one definition, but I can tell which definition is being used based on context, and they are all reasonably consistent. As for beauty, I can't remember the last time I was asked if beauty exists in a literal sense; nor do I think the answer to that question is as easy as you imply. You are accusing me of not being consistent with my argument, but I see no reason to think you are correct.
 
It would seem to me that by stating something is insufficiantly defined and therefore not possible to consider existent or is just meaningless you're evaluating it on the basis of the value of the information which is a scientific manner with which to look at things. If the information is incomplete or there isn't enough of it or it referances itself and nothing else it is mathematically/scientifically valueless/meaningless.
 
I was hurried yesterday writing that last post. Whether you were doing it purposefully or not it seems to me that your arguement was mathematical/scientific in nature based on the description I used above.
At anyrate what I mean is at what point is it sufficiently defined and possible of being considered for existance? The word "god" is just as well defined as the word "art" in my opinion. When you say "art" you could be refering to impressionism, realism, surealism ect. You could be refering to sculpture, painting, music, photography, ect. When you say "god" you could be refering to a Hindu god, or a Christian god, or an Egyptian god, ect. You could be refering to a benevolent god, a molevolent god, a nuetral god, ect. In both instances you can combine the elements that are common to all examples of what the word describes and use that as the basis for your definition. A broad generalized word that is subjective. You may or may not believe that any particular example of god is something you can consider existent. Personally I don't believe there is "art" inherant in a can of tomato soup or even other examples of "art" yet others would disagree with me. Or howabout dada? Do you challenge the "art" of dada due to it being incoherant and insufficiently defined?
 
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TheStatutoryApe said:
Whether you were doing it purposefully or not it seems to me that your arguement was mathematical/scientific in nature based on the description I used above.
No, it wasn't. It is you who has insisted I made this suggestion in three posts now. You can stop it now; no amount of repeating that will make it true.

When you say "god" you could be refering to a Hindu god, or a Christian god, or an Egyptian god, ect. You could be refering to a benevolent god, a molevolent god, a nuetral god, ect.
Well, that's a good point. Some religions of the past have reasonable definitions to describe their God - and, interestingly enough, they always obviously don't exist. When faced with the question, I usually have to choose which definition they mean based on context - just as you are choosing one definition of art. I assume they mean any god. For that, I have to consider the one they've chosen - when I ask, that's when the trouble begins - because most people do not believe in a god that is well defined and obviously doesn't exist. Instead questioning what their definition of the word "god" means produces inconsistent and mostly meaningless results.

By the way, I find your example of the word art to be completely unconvincing. There are several definitions of art. It is true that the way the definition you are using is applied is subjective. I do not consider that an impediment at all. You can't understand why I wouldn't, because you are still insisting I believe something I don't - that definitions require some kind of scientific basis. Until you stop this mischaracterization, you just won't understand.

Of course, I wonder why you care about why I think what I do. You started out asking questions because you thought it was silly. Since you made that assumption based on an incorrect (and loose) interpretation of what I said, it seems to me a moot point now. I didn't start this conversation to defend my stance - though I'm more than happy to. I'm pretty sure no one else gives a hoot, so maybe we could take it to pm's instead. I posted initially because wanted to know what those who find atheist so easy to strictly define would label me. I find it revealing I haven't gotten much of a response.
 
Locrian said:
No, it wasn't. It is you who has insisted I made this suggestion in three posts now. You can stop it now; no amount of repeating that will make it true.
Apearantly you didn't notice that I have changed my wording. I assumed that you were intentionally using a scientific/mathematical sort of arguement in my first response. You stated that wasn't the case so I explained why it appeared that way to me and made sure to point out that it was just that, the way that it apears to me not stating that it was true. Yet you simply state that it isn't the case and make no comment on my reasoning as to why it appeared that way nor do you make any attempt to correct my interpretation of your arguement so far as I can see.

Well, that's a good point. Some religions of the past have reasonable definitions to describe their God - and, interestingly enough, they always obviously don't exist. When faced with the question, I usually have to choose which definition they mean based on context - just as you are choosing one definition of art. I assume they mean any god. For that, I have to consider the one they've chosen - when I ask, that's when the trouble begins - because most people do not believe in a god that is well defined and obviously doesn't exist. Instead questioning what their definition of the word "god" means produces inconsistent and mostly meaningless results.
How is it so obvious that these "gods" don't exist?
By the way, I find your example of the word art to be completely unconvincing. There are several definitions of art. It is true that the way the definition you are using is applied is subjective. I do not consider that an impediment at all. You can't understand why I wouldn't, because you are still insisting I believe something I don't - that definitions require some kind of scientific basis. Until you stop this mischaracterization, you just won't understand.
I am insisting nothing. The reason I can't understand is that you have not explained when you believe a word is sufficiently defined. I asked you that question and you have yet to answer it.
Of course, I wonder why you care about why I think what I do. You started out asking questions because you thought it was silly. Since you made that assumption based on an incorrect (and loose) interpretation of what I said, it seems to me a moot point now. I didn't start this conversation to defend my stance - though I'm more than happy to. I'm pretty sure no one else gives a hoot, so maybe we could take it to pm's instead. I posted initially because wanted to know what those who find atheist so easy to strictly define would label me. I find it revealing I haven't gotten much of a response.
I believe I gave you a response. I said that if you find the word "god" illdefined and meaningless then you would likely be considered an athiest. And I ask questions because I am interested in what you think and I think that this is a fine location to discuss since it is a thread discussing definitions.
 
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TheStatutoryApe said:
The reason I can't understand is that you have not explained when you believe a word is sufficiently defined. I asked you that question and you have yet to answer it.
But I did, before you ever responded to me. And in that post I also made statements that should have prevented this appearance you got of me.

Locrian said:
At least, I don't require that the definition of God be empirically verifiable. Pretty much any definition that is consistent between people using the word and contains words which have meaning would be fine with me.
Please note this is something i posted prior to your first response to me.

TheStatutoryApe said:
I think that this is a fine location to discuss since it is a thread discussing definitions.
Well okay then. Making the case that the word God is insufficiently defined is a long one. The first step in the argument that "God" is not well definined is to show it isn't consistently defined between people using it. By this, I do not mean it has more than one definition. I mean that people who think they are talking about the same thing have very different ones. How some examples? From

http://www.christianforums.com/t1172045-defining-god.html [Broken]

A post requesting a definition of God. See the original thread for handles. I only tried to use those presented by Christians.

God
A being conceived as the perfect, omnipotent, omniscient originator and ruler of the universe, the principal object of faith and worship in monotheistic religions.
The force, effect, or a manifestation or aspect of this being.
A being of supernatural powers or attributes, believed in and worshiped by a people, especially a male deity thought to control some part of nature or reality.
An image of a supernatural being; an idol.
One that is worshiped, idealized, or followed: Money was their god.
A very handsome man.
A powerful ruler or despot.
(Obviously lifted from a dictionary :yuck: Still the number one is useful)

I'm not sure that you can define God. Not if you are talking about the Biblical creator of the universe. We are certainly not given a definition in scripture, and when Moses asked him, all he said was "I AM". I'll watch this thread with interest though to see if anyone can really find one that come close.
al;dfjal;skdjfal;sdhf;lan louretqpiowre vzxcnv;l arwutq-24irfaskldnf ;kljafv=-AQU4320TAMNREWLG'K ASNDIO FYU9PRQ4WA;OJRNL;J[o8asudf8g jioa j89fuqpwjtrea'lksnfzxm.vcnbzl;ksjhfdg8 4-0ajioewjmtrali sdjhf;alskdjf
Well, they were non-denominational :tongue2:

God is existence.
Maybe a definition of God can be found in His names:

Elohim (God)
Jehovah/Yahweh (the self-existent one: I AM)
Jehovah-jireh (the Lord will provide)
Jehovah-rapha (the Lord who heals)
Jehovah-nissi (the Lord our banner)
Jehovah-Shalom (the Lord our peace)
Jehovah-ra-ah (the Lord my shepherd)
Jehovah-tsidkenu (the Lord our righteousness)
Jehovah-shammad (the Lord is present)
Jehovah-Elohim (the Lord God)
Jehovah Sabaoth (the Lord of hosts)
El Elyon (the most high God)
Adonai (our master)
El Shaddai (Almighty God, the strength giver)
El Olam (everlasting God)
There are many ways to define God, all of them correct, for they reveal one truth about Him.
The Creator of the universe.
The Supreme Good.
The Absolute Being.
Who am I to define the undefinable?
Ein Sof is undefinable. To understand what the Bible is talking about you have to really study the original Hebrew or speak/read from someone who can comment on it. There are ten forces of creation, but these are not Ein Sof. There are many differnet names used in the Bible. When you read God in the Bible, it is not the same word used all the time. The different names of God talk about the different aspects of creation but they are not Ein Sof. All we can try and do is illustrate the nature of Ein Sof.
http://100prophecies.org/ THat God...Jehovah dude! alpha and omega dude,creator dude, father,Son, and Holy Spirit Dude,...the Dude who inspired the writing of the Bible,,the Dude who told the prophets to write out these 100 prophecies...that dude...that's the definition..dude!
Of course, these are examples, and only the first step in the argument. The second is to show that these things are not just minor variations, but that they have serious implications on determining what these people are talking about. People might define "art" differently, but they are very similar definitions. If you include the fact that people find different things valuable and/or attractive, all of a sudden a good definition of "art" is easy. Considering some hold that "god" cannot be defined at all, it should be obvious the above definitions are not similar, and creating an overarching definition is not a simple process.

Finally, I would argue that if you created a definition that included all of the above (as some do), it would have no meaning, due to it containing concepts that have no meaning. The almagamation you end up with when combining everyones definition - and lack of definitions - of "god" is rather troubling. For instance, christians are happy to admit god is trinitorial in nature, yet are rather stumped when asked what the difference between these thirds are; except, of course, that they are. When someone tells me something exists, and is everywhere, but undetectable and not subject to physical space and is all-knowing (meaning it contains all information) but must be logical in nature, I'm rather suspicious of whether they mean anything at all.

I don't think I can elaborate any more than I have at this time, and I apoligize. This is primarily because of time constraints. I have no intention of convincing anyone here that I am right about this philosophical stance, just that I do have it, and that I apply it to all things - I have not made an exception just for this concept.

I also hoped at first that after some examples my stance would sound less silly. I've changed my mind. I think any well reasoned stance on this issue will always seem silly to those who disagree. I am not suggesting I'm immune to this, concerning my perception of others.
 
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phoenixthoth said:
Is there such a thing as an agnostic who believes in God?

What I think I mean by that is someone who believes in God but also belives that fact can't be proven or disproven.
I am positive that I do not 'know' if God exists. As a matter of pure faith, I believe that God exists, without proof. So, that makes me a theist. However, as a devout agnostic, I do not claim to 'know' who he is, what he is, or what he wants, and question how it was or is humanly possible for anybody to claim to 'know' anything like that, except as a matter of pure faith, which is what all of that purely is. Meaning, a belief in something for which proof is not evident or even possible.
 

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