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Atheism meant the belief of no god

  1. Aug 23, 2005 #1
    I was once told that Atheism meant the belief , after studying all of the evidence, that there is no God.

    However, as no one could ever study all of the evidence there is no such thing as an atheist.

    Thoughts please
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 23, 2005 #2
    impractical definition
  4. Aug 23, 2005 #3


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    The word "atheism" just denotes a lack of belief in the existence of a god or gods. Questions about evidence are perhaps relevant to whether one chooses to be an atheist or not, but they are not built into the definition of the term itself.

    Note also that being an atheist does not entail actively denying the existence of a god; one can be an atheist without holding the positive belief that god(s) do not exist. For more information, see the Wikipedia entry on atheism.
  5. Aug 23, 2005 #4
    If you use this definition of an atheist, it seems as though there is no difference between an atheist and an agnostic. I don't think an atheist has to deny there is a god(s), but does have to have the belief that god(s) do not exist. If you don't really know if there is a god or not and you are skeptical, I would say you lean towards agnosticism over atheism.
  6. Aug 23, 2005 #5


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    Well, there's some ambiguity in how the terms are used. Sometimes the term "agnostic" is used to mean the lack of a belief about the existence of god one way or another, with "atheism" meaning an explicit denial of god's existence.

    However, I don't think the above is the proper or most useful sense of the terms. Atheism should be taken to be a metaphysical belief about god's existence, while agnosticism should be taken to be an epistemological belief about what we can know about god. An agnostic is just committed to believing that we can't know or prove anything about god's existence, but this does not preclude an agnostic from being a theist or an atheist anyway (one could be an agnostic, but still be a theist or some form of atheist as a matter of faith or intuition or whatever).
  7. Aug 24, 2005 #6
    I think that to an atheist, the question of whether God exists is useless. There is just no need for God, and if God does exist, who cares? There's no reason to think that he affects us. That said, atheists do like to speculate.
  8. Sep 6, 2005 #7
    Good point. I think for many, the concept of "god" is the last thing on their minds.
  9. Sep 6, 2005 #8


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    Would you it be fair to call atheism a religious belief? At least a spiritual belief?
  10. Sep 6, 2005 #9
    If you want to call it religion, that's fine. But it's not religion in the same sense as christianity, judaism, or islam, where blind faith and dogma are needed. We could do this, but who wants to complicate things by giving two totally different meanings to the same word?

    As for spirituality, it is much harder to define that.
  11. Sep 6, 2005 #10
    From Webster, "atheism", from Greek atheos, a = without, theos = god, thus atheism is defined as the belief that there is no god.

    The "atheist" (Webster) = a person who believes that there is no god. Thus, one cannot be an athesis and at the same time hold that god exists, this is by "definition"--so I disagree with those who have suggested otherwise.

    Now, for the agnostic (Webster) = a person that "questions the existence of god, heaven, etc. in the absence of material proof and in an unwillingness to accept supernatural revelation".

    I am not aware of any word for a person that does not care one way or the other if god exists or not--clearly by definition such a person is not an atheist. Logically, it is hard for me to contemplate a person that would claim to believe that god exists but did not care to follow rules of god. But then there is Lucifer, not a person, but at least a possible "existent"--that did follow this path. So, perhaps a suggested word for the person that believes that god exists but does not care is "luceist", and the philosophy they follow "luceism"--just a thought ?
  12. Sep 6, 2005 #11


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    Let G be the proposition "God exists," and let B(G) represent the clause "belief that God exists." B(G) then amounts to theism. Atheism is the logical negation of theism, or in other words, atheism amounts to ~B(G)-- that is, atheism is defined by a lack of a belief in God.

    But notice that there are two kinds of belief systems that fall under ~B(G). One is B(~G), which is an explicit belief that God does not, in fact, exist. This is referred to as strong atheism, or explicit atheism.

    The other type of atheism can be formalized here as ~B(G) ^ ~B(~G). In other words, this position makes a commitment neither to the belief that God does exist, nor to the belief that God does not exist-- it is neither theism nor strong atheism. Nonetheless, insofar as it is not theism, it is still classified as a type of atheism, by definition. This form of atheism is referred to as weak atheism, or implicit atheism.

    Agnostic comes from a + gnosis, where gnosis means knowledge. Thus, it just means without knowledge of God. But one need not have knowledge about something in order to form a belief about it. Even if one is an agnostic and believes he cannot attain knowledge about God, one can still believe (or disbelieve) in the existence of God as a matter of faith. There are people who classify themselves as agnostic theists, and that is not a contradiction in terms.
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2005
  13. Sep 15, 2005 #12
    One wonders at a mind that can merely accept something that you were 'once told', and use it as the foundation for a logical 'conclusion'.

    Pink unicorns are real!
    You cannot see them till after you die.
    You can ride them in heaven.
    If you don't believe in them, you will go to hell.

    Why would you, or anyone, accept something that you were told as a 'given' for anything?
  14. Sep 15, 2005 #13
    Atheism is believing that there is no god because of the lack of evidence given. This is stupid as it is a philosophical fallacy appealing to ignorance. Because god cant be proven to exist, he therefore doesnt exist.

    This is like religous people saying god cant be proven not to exist, therefore he does exist...

    The only logical position is to be agnostic :)
  15. Sep 15, 2005 #14


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    This is incorrect. You are referring to strong atheism here, but neglecting to consider weak atheism. See post #11 of this thread.
  16. Sep 15, 2005 #15
    Weak atheism is agnosticism.

    When I say I dont believe in a christian god, that doesnt mean I am saying a christian god doesnt exist
  17. Sep 15, 2005 #16


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    In the common vernacular, agnosticism is usually meant to convey weak atheism, but this is a usage problem. If weak atheism and agnosticism were equivalent, it would impossible to be e.g. an agnostic theist, because that would be a contradiction in terms. But it's not. An agnostic theist would be someone who believes that God exists, but denies that he can have any true knowledge of God's existence. That is, he doesn't think the matter of God's existence can be subject to demonstration or proof or whatever, but he chooses to believe in God anyway as a matter of faith.

    Of course, it might be relatively rare for someone to be both agnostic and theist, and probably even rarer for someone to be agnostic and strong atheist. Agnosticism and weak atheism go together naturally, and the majority of agnostics are probably weak atheists, but the two terms are not synonymous.
  18. Sep 16, 2005 #17
    I don't need to know all about geometry nor all of the properties of a given triangle in order to disprove it; I only need to know two points that form a logical contradiction.

    If it were given that the triangle was on a Euclidean plane, and that it had a total of 400 interior degrees... I could disprove it simply by knowing the one fact that Euclidean triangles have 180 interior degrees.

    The same principle applies with anything. I don't need to know "all of the evidence" to disprove God; I only need to know enough to find a contradiction.
  19. Sep 16, 2005 #18

    You have to find an objective contradiction not a subjective one.
  20. Sep 16, 2005 #19
    I never say that one cannot 'deduce' that God does not exists, i merely recount a definition i had heard.
  21. Sep 22, 2005 #20
    The definition is obviously wrong.

    1) Atheism means, literally, "no god". It is the belief that there is no god. It has nothing to do with how you came to your beliefs, only with those beliefs themselves.
    2) You're right, you couldn't study all of the evidence.

    So, the definition is wrong. ...-__-

    The point of my earlier post was to say that even though the definition may be wrong, the implications of its being so (or at least the way it was phrased) are not correct. Even if you can't study all the evidence, you can be an atheist- and that does not, as it seems to imply, necessitate a disregard for evidence. You can be an atheist after examining sufficient evidence, all evidence you could find, or conclusive evidence.
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