Why conclude Atheism?

It has always been a curiosity to me at how wedded to the label Atheist some Atheists are.  What I mean is, the large majority of self-described Atheists I’ve interacted with are actually agnostic by definition.  In fact, often they are vehemently opposed to being described as an Agnostic even though their view of whether God exists would more sufficiently warrant it.

Why are Atheists, Atheists?  When I ask, the answer I get most often is “there’s no/insufficient evidence”.  OK, I can see why they might say that.  But if we look at this reason more broadly, it doesn’t really warrant Atheism.

Think about all the things that have little to no empirical evidence which are nonetheless true — even rare things.

So if lack of empirical evidence doesn’t by necessity lead to negation, why conclude Atheism?  And if your view would be best described as Agnostic, why the forceful hold on the label Atheist if not for purely emotional reasons?

Comments

  1. Atheism is just the lack of belief in any deities – that’s it. I’m an atheist because I don’t believe in any deities. I don’t believe in any deities because no one has convinced me that any exist.
    If you aren’t an atheist, then that means you believe in one or more deities. Please, define the deity you believe in and provide the evidence that convinced you this deity exists.

  2. SpaceGhoti says:

    Because a theist is someone who believes in a god or gods. A gnostic is someone who claims to know the answer. An atheist doesn’t believe in a god while an agnostic claims to not know the answer. Nothing about these labels makes them exclusive.

    I know of no evidence that satisfies the burden of proof for claims of gods. That doesn’t mean I know no gods exist, it means I have no good reason to believe in any.

    That’s why I conclude atheism. Show me new evidence and I’ll reconsider it.

    • Space and Paul

      You both kind of exemplified the readon for the post. You say you believe there’s insufficient evidence to meet your personal threshold to assent to belief in a god.

      Neither of you really answered the question though. Even if I grant that there is insufficient evidence, why do you conclude atheism rather than “I dont know”? Especially since many propositions are true even without empirical physical evidence.

  3. You don’t understand the words you are discussing.

    Atheism and agnosticism are not mutually exclusive. “Agnosticism” is not some third position which is neither “atheism” not “theism”. They are different answers to different questions, in this case “Do you believe that any gods exist?” and “Do you believe it is possible to know whether any gods exist?”.

    Anyone who does not hold a belief in one or more gods is an atheist. Someone who holds an active belief in the nonexistence of particular gods is specifically known as a “strong” atheist, as opposed to “weak” or “implicit” atheists who make no claims either way.

    On the other hand, the vast majority of atheists are at least technically agnostic, even if they are willing to treat fairy tales about Zeus or Allah with the same contempt that they treat tales about unicorns and leprechauns. Describing yourself as “Just an agnostic”, or stating “I’m not an atheist, I’m an agnostic” makes about as much as saying “I’m not Spanish, I’m male.”

    Here is a handy infographic for you: http://i.imgur.com/xXuNC.jpg

  4. The question is: “Do I believe one or more deities exist?” That answer is No. I’ve never been convinced that they do. I have no idea whether or not any deities exist. That’s why I’m an agnostic atheist.

  5. ” why conclude God doesnt exist?

    Why do you think that I do that? I’ve explicitly stated that I do not make any conclusions about the existence of deities.

  6. I have no idea whether or not any deities exist.

  7. An atheist is someone who does not believe in any deities. I do not believe in any deities. Therefore, I am an atheist.

    That doesn’t mean I claim no deities exist. I make no claims about whether or not any deities exist. I just have never been given a reason to establish a belief in any of the 3,000 deities mankind has worshipped.

  8. SpaceGhoti says:

    “Even if I grant that there is insufficient evidence, why do you conclude atheism rather than “I dont know”? Especially since many propositions are true even without empirical physical evidence.”

    Do you know that space aliens exist? Do you know that you don’t? I don’t know in either case. Does that give me a reason to believe they DO exist? Also no.

    I may as well ask you why you don’t believe in the Great God Marletrupp. You have no evidence that the Great God Marletrupp doesn’t exist so why don’t you believe in it?

    • Space

      Am I missing something? You seem to be suggesting that im saying you should believe barring any evidence to the contrary. No. What I am suggesting, and asking, is why not withhold a judgment in either direction until presented with evidence that meets your threshold.

      So instead of saying “not enough evidence, therefore no gods exist” why not say “not enough evidence, therefore I’m not sure”.

  9. “So instead of saying “not enough evidence, therefore no gods exist” why not say “not enough evidence, therefore I’m not sure”.”

    That’s not what either of us are saying.

    We’re saying “Not enough evidence, therefore I don’t believe in any gods. Some may still exist, and when I’m given evidence, I will change my view.”

    Atheism is not the claim that no gods exist, which is what you seem to be saying. That’s a complete misrepresentation of our position.

  10. “true or false? God exists”

    Neither. I have no idea whether or not any deities exist. I’ve said this in every post I’ve made to you. I’m not sure where our miscommunication is occurring.

    For belief you have two options: Either you believe in one or more deities (theism) or you do not (atheism). For knowledge you have two options: Either you claim that it is possible to know whether or not deities exist (gnosticism) or you claim that it is not possible to know (agnosticism).

    It is possible to *believe* in a deity, without claiming to know that deities exist. This position is known as agnostic theism.

    It is possible to not believe in any deities, without claiming that it’s possible to know that any deities do not exist. This position is agnostic atheism.

    Agnostic and atheist are not mutually exclusive terms.

    • We should get some things cleared up. For too long atheists on intetnet blogs and whatnot have blurred definitions and verbiage which makes discussions unproductive. This is evidenced by what seems to be you, Paul, talking out of both sides of your mouth. Im not saying youre intentionally be obfuscating, but its the product of the web atheist culture.

      Atheism is the belief that no gods exist. It’s not a lack of belief, its not a dont believe. Its not a non anything.

      Second, people dont have nonbeliefs. They dont not believe things. We believe things. For example, its not that I dont believe in pink elephants, I believe there are no pink elephants. Its not that I dont believe money doesnt grow on trees, I believe money doesnt grow on trees.

      So when you say you dont believe in any gods, youre even ising it in a much different sense than most people. And then you couple it with the term atheism and then claim to be am atheist. You are very confused in the language you use and the way youre defining your terms. Youre saying that you have no idea whether any deities exist (which is the definition of agnosticism as it related to the God debate) and you also say you dont believe in any gods. These two positions are not in any way obviously identical.

  11. @John
    “Atheism is the belief that no gods exist. It’s not a lack of belief, its not a dont believe. Its not a non anything.”
    Redefining atheism to fit your premise is not an honest approach. Atheism is literally the absence of belief in the existence of a god or gods (a = without, theism = belief in the existence of a god or gods). It is not a positive statement (E.g. There are no gods).
    “Second, people dont have nonbeliefs.” – having no belief in something’s existence is not the same as a non-belief.
    Agnosticism is basically a stance that the existence of any deities is unknowable.

    • @ Questions:

      Redefining atheism to fit your premise is not an honest approach.

      I agree: The word “atheism” is basically a transliteration of the Greek word atheos, (theos meaning God/deity). In Greek ”a” could mean “without” or “lacking” when related to a passive verb, however, in the case of the noun atheos the ”a“ takes on the meaning of an “opposite of” or reversal of meaning of the noun it is associated with. So in the case of atheos, it means the opposite of theos. If theism is to affirm that a deity/deities exist, then atheism is to affirm that no deity/deities exists (theos=god(s); atheos=no god(s)). Grammatically, when the particle “a” is joined with nouns it should always be associated with the object; the negation is on the thing and not on the belief itself. So as a matter of Greek grammar, an atheos is someone who denies that a particular God or gods exist. Since the English terms ”atheism” and “atheist” are directly derived specifically from atheos, their meanings in English directly correlate.

      Also, there are two kinds of agnosticism. One kind you mention, that it is unknowable. The second is that it can be known, but the individual doesnt know.

      Lastly, an example of something for which there is no empirical evidence is what I had for breakfast. What number I am thinking of. The route you too to get from your house to a grocery store. All of those have definitive answers but have no empirical evidence.

      • QuestionsEverything says:

        @John

        I’ll give you credit for creativity, but you lack actual substance. You are correct that theos in Greek means “god”, but atheos does not mean “the opposite of god”; atheos means “godless, without god (a = without)”, which is where atheist comes from (one without god, godless).

        ” If theism is to affirm that a deity/deities exist, then atheism is to affirm that no deity/deities exists (theos=god(s); atheos=no god(s)).” Since affirm means “to state as fact, to assert strongly and publicly”, you are wrong on both counts, since neither deals with certainty, only belief. As always, in Greek the “a” denotes without, so if theism is the belief in deities, then atheism is the without a belief in deities or absence of. Some dictionaries define atheism as “Disbelief in or denial of the existence of God or gods” or “a disbelief in the existence of deity”.

  12. @John
    “Think about all the things that have little to no empirical evidence which are nonetheless true — even rare things.” – Can you please provide examples of things that have zero empirical evidence, but are nonetheless true?

  13. “Atheism is the belief that no gods exist. It’s not a lack of belief, its not a dont believe. Its not a non anything.”

    I’m sorry John. I don’t mean to be rude, but you are wrong. This conversation would go a lot differently if you were open-minded enough to admit that as even a possibility.

    Let’s go to our sources:

    http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/atheism

    disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods.

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/atheism?s=t

    disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atheism

    Most inclusively, atheism is the absence of belief that any deities exist

    “”a“ takes on the meaning of an “opposite of” or reversal of meaning of the noun it is associated with. ”

    Again. This is false. Look at the word asymmetric. It doesn’t mean “Opposed to symmetry” it only means lacking symmetry.

  14. Words change meaning all the time, it’s the nature of what language is, so the word “atheist” can mean “lacking belief” or “believing none exist,” depending on how someone uses a word. I can’t say the latter is wrong, because both are technically correct, mainly because someone who believes none exist also lacks belief that they do. Words hardly ever have just one definition that works in all circumstances by all people, language is fairly fluid like that. You may use one definition, I may use another. You’re saying all other definitions besides the one you’re using aren’t correct, which isn’t the case. You also have to define which god you’re talking about, because some definitions I’ve heard are logically impossible so I’ll say I know those don’t exist.

    “Lastly, an example of something for which there is no empirical evidence is what I had for breakfast. What number I am thinking of. The route you too to get from your house to a grocery store. All of those have definitive answers but have no empirical evidence.”

    Any of these claims are not even remotely close to claims about the supernatural, especially gods. If you say you had eggs and bacon for breakfast I could quite easily say “I don’t believe you,” that doesn’t mean I’m calling you a liar or that I believe you didn’t have those things. I also could just believe you because eggs and bacon are a common breakfast that people have, it’s mundane, but if you said your pet talking unicorn made them for you I would immediately say that I don’t believe you because there’s no evidence for unicorns. I wouldn’t say you were lying necessarily, I just would have no reason to take you at your word. The same holds true with supernatural claims, I have no reason to accept someone’s word as true, it doesn’t mean I assume the contrary conclusion that their claims are false.

  15. From ἀ- (a-, “not”) + θεός (theos, “god”) – so “a” can mean “not”, which would make atheos “not god”, not “opposite of god”.

    Ephesians 2:12
    ὅτι ἦτε ἐν τῷ καιρῷ ἐκείνῳ χωρὶς Χριστοῦ ἀπηλλοτριωμένοι τῆς πολιτείας τοῦ Ἰσραὴλ καὶ ξένοι τῶν διαθηκῶν τῆς ἐπαγγελίας ἐλπίδα μὴ ἔχοντες καὶ ἄθεοι ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ

    At that time you were without the Messiah,o excluded from citizenship in Israel,p and strangers to the covenants of promise. You had no hope and were in the world without God.

    ἄθεοι without God

    Some atheist do state, “there is no god(s)”, but most state, “I have no belief in god(s) existing”, or “I don’t believe in the existence of god(s)”. The agnostics I know simply state, “I do not know if god(s) exist”. You do see the difference don’t you; one deals with belief and the other deals with knowledge.

    • @QE

      But thats the rub, people dont have “no beliefs” on a subject unless they have zero information. For example, I have no belief in which is the best soccer team in Europe. Atheists do have a belief about God.

      The statements “I have no belief in god(s) existing”, or “I don’t believe in the existence of god(s)” don’t really accurately reflect how atheists present their beliefs about God, namely, that God doesn’t exist. When I try to get a solid answer by asking “does God exist?” in the context of the definition of “atheism” I get all this hemming and hawing about lacking belief, and having no affirmative belief” etc. It’s only when this particular issue comes up, i.e., the point in my post, atheists retreat to these loose definitions. However, in every other discussion, they have no problem stating they believe God doesn’t exist. They will readily say there’s no god. “It’s a fairy tale”, “God is a human invention that doesnt really exist” “God is an imaginary friend” et al.

      So why is it when this particular topic arises do atheists all of a sudden get vague in their assertions?

    • Exactly, without God,. NOT having no belief in God. The connotation regards the presence of God, not what the people thought about his being there or not. You’re making my point, not yours

  16. I wrote a post awhile back entitled Is Atheism a Complex that I feel is relevant here. It does seem that many atheists actively believe God does not exist, as opposed to simply not believing in God. It may seem like a distinction without a difference, as it did to me until reading Thomas Nagel’s words.

    I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.” (”The Last Word” by Thomas Nagel, Oxford University Press: 1997)

    HERE

  17. QuestionsEverything says:

    @JB

    I was not making your point at all, since you seem to assume that atheism is a reflection on the belief in no god(s) (atheos). Atheos is to theos as atheism is to theism, so godless/god and no belief in a god/belief in a god.

    As to your question, “God exists, yes or no?”, you will never get an honest answer since you have only presented a loaded question. Your question is about knowledge and not belief. Given the parameters of the question, the only honest answer could be “There is no way to know for definite either way”.

    Can you answer the following honestly?

    Shiva exists, yes or no? Odin exists, yes or no? Ahura Mazda exists, yes or no?

    • Thats the thing, QE, I can answer honestly. And not because I have an already decided religious conviction, nor an out of hand dismissal. There’s actually evidence against the existence of those gods as opposed to there not being enough evidence for a god for your satisfaction.

  18. My answer is simple. I call myself atheist, even thought I am techincally agnositic, because whenever I get in a conversation about God, it is always the christian God. I am atheist when it comes to the christian god. agnostic to any generic god.

    • Marius de Jess says:

      M. Rodriguez, you say: “I am atheist when it comes to the christian god. agnostic to any generic god.”

      You have to present your concept of a generic god, otherwise you are into obfuscation and obscurantism.

  19. Marius de Jess says:

    Internet atheists are obfuscators and obscurantists.

Any Thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: