Selective obfuscation and the definition of ‘atheism’

In a previous post, I attempted to highlight the tendency for self-identified Atheists to muddy language in a way that doesn’t truly represent what it is they actually believe about God, i.e., that God does not exist.  I am no stranger to the insistence of Atheists to use what they consider a proper a understanding of what atheism is and what it means to be an Atheist.  I can appreciate that people don’t like to be misrepresented or mislabeled.  However, I’m not inclined to think this insistence on clarity is entirely intellectually honest.

You see, in the context of the definition of atheism — and only in this context — do Atheists prefer some loose definition.  They’ll insist atheism is just the lack of belief in any deities.  One Atheist put it like this:

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.

Broadly speaking, they’ll make every attempt to distance themselves from explicit statements like “no god(s) exist”, but only when discussing definitions.  This distancing is painful at times, especially when they dodge and refuse to answer simple questions such as: true or false, God exists.  Or, do any gods exist? Direct answers are difficult to come by.

Why do Atheists retreat to vague terminology to define atheism when they otherwise have no problem saying God doesn’t exist.  They’ll readily refer to God as imaginary, an invention of man, or a cultural illusion.  They have have no qualm calling theists mistaken or deluded in their belief God actually exists.  In fact, a favorite slogan of theirs is “you Christians don’t believe thousands of other gods exist, we Atheists just go one further”.

Why is this?  Could it be they fear that if they make a definitive statement, such as no gods exist, they might be asked to defend the claim?  I think so.  What else explains the stark change in willingness to make claims about God’s existence when it’s a definition we’re talking about as opposed to when the Theist’s beliefs are being scrutinized?

Comments

  1. How about thinking about it this question: does Poseidon exist? There is the issue whether you believe Poseidon exists (which you’d probably answer “no”), and then there is the issue of how you would demonstrate Poseidon *doesn’t* exist. I’m not sure if the latter is possible. Do you think so? For the former, it is enough to demonstrate that there are many other plausible sources for the stories or observations attributed to Poseidon. You don’t even need to argue for any single particular alternative plausible explanation in order to undermine the claim that Poseidon, as described, probably doesn’t exist. What do you think?

    • Of course it’s possible to show poseidon doesnt exist. Maybe ill do a post or two doing just that

    • Marius de Jess says:

      Atheists are obfuscators and obscurantists.

      They claim that they cannot prove God does not exist, because to prove God does not exist they have to go to everywhere in the universe and also into the broader field of the totality of existence whatsoever, which they cannot — of course no human can.

      When a human who is not an obfuscator and obscurantist says that he does not believe in something to be existing, it is incumbent on him to specify the time and space when and where that something is supposed to be existing but it is not; wherefore he does not believe that something to be existing, i.e., not in the time and space he specifies.

      For example, the atheist says he does not believe in the existence of the zebra, and he specifies, not in my attic and not now; with that specification, then he is not into obfuscation and obscurantism.

      So, dear atheists, so that you will not be into self-obfuscation and self-obscurantism, please specify when and where you cannot come to evidence of the existence of God and also of course give your definition of God; otherwise you are into self-obfuscation and self-obscurantism.

      Now, dear atheists, suppose you say like this: “I am atheist because I don’t have enough evidence to ascertain the existence of God in my nose now, and my information of God is that He is in concept first and foremost the creator and operator of the universe and man and everything with a beginning.

      That is very good, I congratulate you for not dwelling in self-obfuscation and self-obscurantism.

      And I invite you with me to both of us examine whether now and in your nose there is no God, in concept as the creator and operator of the universe and man and everything with a beginning.

      What do you say, will you be first to look for evidence in your nose, or I?

      Best we both look for evidence of God in your nose and in my nose, each of us examining both noses, and see whether we can conclude on truths, facts, logic and the history of ideas that there is no God in your nose, no God in concept first and foremost as the creator and operator of the universe and man and everything with a beginning.

  2. Same post as before with nothing new to offer, By the way, “atheist” and “theist” are not proper nouns.

    • They describe people. Thats why I capitalize them. I do it intentionally, just like when I put punctuation outside quotation marks.

      The post touches on the same issue but asks a different qurstion.

      Why when arguing with a theist do atheists feel so free to declare no gods exist, but when discussing the issue and definition of atheism, all of a sudden it gets so vague?

  3. Ever consider that some people online may be trolling, or just like to “poke the bear”? Ever hear of anti-theists?

    • Of course. However many of these people are the same people, and arent trolling. Have you ever considered that they just dont like being backed into a corner and in a position where they should be defending their views? I think chalking it up to intellectual dishonesty than trolling.

  4. John,
    Regardless of whatever label you wish to apply to the person who does not accept your god claim, simply not accepting it is NOT an assertion of any other position, no matter how many times you keep insisting it does.

    Once again, instead of defending your belief, you require the other person to defend a position you think they must take.

    By the way – Your “proof” of the non-existence of any other deities because they aren’t, in your opinion, intended as histories is quite laughable. The same can be said about the historicity of tales told in the bible. Only a fool would actually consider them historical.

  5. What assertions? Your premise is based on generalizations.

    • @Question Everything

      Z has unequivocally stated tjat no gods exist. He has also said that he doesnt have to say why he thinks that. He has also said that he is correct by default. He has been in and out here for a while.

    • @QE

      Z has a nasty habit of thinking I should write about topics that he thibks I should be writing about. Like here, he demands I write about somethjng else. His view on this topic is “im not answering anything until you answer everything to my satisfaction”.

  6. zqtx,

    Once again, instead of defending your belief, you require the other person to defend a position you think they must take.

    Ever wonder why? Right in the blog description, John writes, Religious, political, and social commentary through the filter of a conservative Christian worldview. I focus on addressing why critic’s arguments against my views fail rather than the traditional positive case-making for the Christian worldview.

    By the way – Your “proof” of the non-existence of any other deities because they aren’t, in your opinion, intended as histories is quite laughable. The same can be said about the historicity of tales told in the bible. Only a fool would actually consider them historical.

    You can demonstrate the historicity of Jesus Christ rather easily. A litany of evidence proves the historicity of Christ, none exists to prove the historicity of Poseidon or, for that matter, the ridiculous idea of a “flying spaghetti monster” that atheists often bring up, quite absurdly I might add.

    Is proving the historicity of Christ the same as proving His divinity? No, it’s not. But it’s a start.

    • Not to mention, Z, that my quip about other gods not being intended to be historical was a passing quick statement. Theres more to it than that, and more than just that.

  7. Ok, so your blog should be about Z rather than trying to generalize all atheists. Using your logic, an article about how theists are bigoted and hateful, based on the actions of the Westboro Baptists, would be just as factual.

    • @QE

      No, my response was to him

      Youre kind of new here so let me just get you up to speed. When I speak about atheists I do generalize. I do because my generalizations hit true of a lot of them. I understand not every one of you think the same things for the same reasons or make the same arguments.

      However, when I noted I was speaking about someone specifically, I was chided for it “thats just one person, it doesnt mean anything”. Ive also been chided for generalizing “not everyone thinks or says or argues that”. What im left with is either generalize, or be specific, or not write. So I generalize.

      Im not actually trying to lump all atheists in. I had in the past tried to intentionally use the qualifier “some” or “many”. Sometimes i forget to do that and should be more conscious of it.

  8. @Terrance
    I appreciate your input. What I think this post addresses is an argument about the definition of atheism. John wants it to be an assertion so he can attack it instead of trying to make an argument for his belief. That’s all.

    I understand the nature of his presuppositional worldview, but he never feels any need to defend it. He is simply upset with the fact that I do not believe there is sufficient evidence to share his belief. He hides behind trying to attack his critic’s arguments. The problem here is that his critic’s argument relies on the evidence he fails to present, so he resorts to creating straw-man arguments against the assertions he projects on his critics.

    As for the historicity of the bible, it’s quite clear that many of the stories told in the old testament are simply fables and folklore. I realize that this remark may not go over too well with its followers, but these fables must all be accepted as true if the believer is to accept the bible as inerrant.

    @QE
    Please be aware that John is either misrepresenting my position or he is not intelligent enough to understand my position. Since I don’t think John is at all stupid, I would think it’s the former.

    I do not accept substantial claims without evidence.

    John has many problems with definitions and several of his posts reflect that. It’s just a shame that he takes any criticism exposing this so personally.

  9. zqtx,

    Whatever argument you have with John aside, my point is that John has always been clear regarding his mission. His purpose is to refute negative positions, not defend positive, to his worldview.

    I suppose I’d be interested in learning precisely what parts of the Old Testament you believe are myth. The Old Testament is comprised of several different books. Which book[s] are you having trouble believing?

  10. @ Terrance
    Not accepting a claim based on the evidence presented does not create a position to refute. That’s the point – he insists that the critic present an assertion that he can then attack. I guess this tactic is used because his belief is indefensible or he’s under the impression that it’s immune to scrutiny.

    As for OT fables –here’s one: I find the story of Noah and the ark utterly implausible on so many levels.

    • What I insist on is that if you reject my position, you provide reasons, and arguments for those reasons. You’ve stated that you dont need to give reasons why you reject my views, that you can just say I’m wrong and leave it at that. That’s intellectually lazy and dishonest.

  11. My apologies, John

    I thought you created this post to actually gain some perspective and insight from the non-believers point of view.

    I was wrong.

    It’s unfortunate that you still have such disdain for anything I write.
    Oh well – take care.

    • No, I created this post to ask atheists why when they’re talking with Christians about Christianity, they have no problem saying God doesnt exist, that belief in God is delusional, that God is an invention of imagination. But conversely, when talking to atheists about atheism, they retreat into vague and loose language about there merely being insufficuent this, or improbably that.

      If you read the post you’d know that. One day you’ll actually discuss the post I wrote and not the one you think I should have written.

  12. Your post goes into great detail about requiring atheists to defend a declaration that no gods exist.

    I think our conversations would be a lot more fruitful if you didn’t resort to calling me intellectually lazy and dishonest.

    Even if someone were to make the declaration that no gods exist, is there any evidence that anyone could present to you that would make you believe it? What evidence would it take for you to believe that no gods exist?

    • Z

      Ive said before, if the biblical records could be discovered to be fraudulent, or if there were a philosophical argument demonstrating it is impossible for God to exist, I would renounce my convictions.

    • And reread the post, I dont require anyone to do anything. I note the different claims atheists are willing to make in different contexts, then ask why. Read, Z, read.

    • Marius de Jess says:

      Marius de Jess says:
      May 11, 2016 at 2:51 PM

      Atheists are obfuscators and obscurantists.

      They claim that they cannot prove God does not exist, because to prove God does not exist they have to go to everywhere in the universe and also into the broader field of the totality of existence whatsoever, which they cannot — of course no human can.

      When a human who is not an obfuscator and obscurantist says that he does not believe in something to be existing, it is incumbent on him to specify the time and space when and where that something is supposed to be existing but it is not; wherefore he does not believe that something to be existing, i.e., not in the time and space he specifies.

      For example, the atheist says he does not believe in the existence of the zebra, and he specifies, not in my attic and not now; with that specification, then he is not into obfuscation and obscurantism.

      So, dear atheists, so that you will not be into self-obfuscation and self-obscurantism, please specify when and where you cannot come to evidence of the existence of God and also of course give your definition of God; otherwise you are into self-obfuscation and self-obscurantism.

      Now, dear atheists, suppose you say like this: “I am atheist because I don’t have enough evidence to ascertain the existence of God in my nose now, and my information of God is that He is in concept first and foremost the creator and operator of the universe and man and everything with a beginning.

      That is very good, I congratulate you for not dwelling in self-obfuscation and self-obscurantism.

      And I invite you with me to both of us examine whether now and in your nose there is no God, in concept as the creator and operator of the universe and man and everything with a beginning.

      What do you say, will you be first to look for evidence in your nose, or I?

      Best we both look for evidence of God in your nose and in my nose, each of us examining both noses, and see whether we can conclude on truths, facts, logic and the history of ideas that there is no God in your nose, no God in concept first and foremost as the creator and operator of the universe and man and everything with a beginning.

  13. Biblical records could never be proven fraudulent to you because of your bias towards believing them and your inability to look at them objectively.

    Philosophically speaking, it is more reasonable to not believe in the existence of something until it has been proven to exist – not the other way around.

    I reread your post, o condescending one, and your gripe is over your perception of what you think atheists are claiming.

    • My post is over the words atheists themselves use.

      Second, my conversion is only about 10 years old, maybe younger. I dont have a bias that makes me deny any evidence to the contrary. I didnt become a christian until my early to mid 20s.

      But heres the funny thing. You think I have a bias that cant be oversome by any argument or evidence, but you think youre wholly unbiased amd objective.

  14. Again, you have issues with how you define words and demand that others adhere to that definition.

    The date of your conversion is irrelevant. You now see the world through your rose colored glasses and filter everything from a Christian perspective to fit that conclusion.

    I agree that everyone is susceptible to bias and I don’t claim to be immune.

    That seems to be a consistent knee-jerk reaction from you John;
    “Well, you’re accusing me of having bias, so you MUST think you have NO bias.”
    “Well, you don’t believe that god exists, so you MUST be saying NO gods exist.”

    That makes discussions with you very difficult.

    • Z

      When an atheist says god doesnt exist, I take it for its plain meaning. When youve said you believe god doesnt exist I believe you. When youve told me that youre looking at it objectively I believe you think that. Im not assuming, youve said those things

  15. Ok, then – for the sake of discussion, based on your previous statements:

    What would it take to convince you that a biblical record is fraudulent?
    What philosophical argument would convince you of the impossibility for God to exist?

    • If there were found a first century document or documents found that admitted a conspiracy, that would work, for example. Or a first century document noting something different than the accounts in the gospels. There could be many different things.

      Also, an argument that could soundly demonstrate that an entity such as God is philosophically impossible.

      I attempted to do that a while back after atheists claimed you cant argue agajnst the existence of something, which is nonsense.

  16. Even if such a first century document were found, what would keep you from dismissing it or thinking it was fraudulent? It seems that you have set an impossible condition to convince you of anything other than what you already believe to be true.

    I think that instead of being critical of the gospels themselves, you would be critical of anything contrary to the gospels and be biased against it.

    Do you believe there could be a philosophical argument against the existence of God? If so, what would it be?

    • How could a first century document be fraudulent? If something showed up completely undermining the Gospel accounts, they would upset the enterprise.

      You keep telling me I would be biased against whatever. Im planning a post on this, but I dont need Cristianity to be true. What I mean is I dont feel any emotional root. It wouldnt destroy my world. It would be a surprise, but I could handle it. I believe Christianity is true because I think it is, not because I feel it is.

      You asking me to formulate an argument presumes there is one. I already offered an argument against the existence of God. Why do you keep asking?

  17. How could it be fraudulent? Simple – authenticity and interpretation. There are so many flavors of religion (and Christianity specifically) that the context of that documentation would be hotly disputed and never agreed upon. I think that most believers are so entrenched in their belief system that nothing could ever undermine what they believe to be true or want to believe to be true.

    Religion is very intertwined with one’s self-image. It is difficult to separate the belief from the believer and most followers take any criticism of their belief as a personal attack on them. Most believers have a deep emotional bond with their belief.

    If you say you don’t, that’s fine – I can appreciate that.

    As for the argument against the non-existence of something, I’m just confused how you can say there is one. I’m just trying to ask you open-ended questions.

    • Z

      I think youre right about most Christians and believers. Im saying if Christianity were shown to be false it wouldnt destroy my world. Think about all the other former Christians who are now atheists. They seemed to be able to walk away just fine, so how can you doubt me? Im a pretty unemotuonal person. Ive never had a highly “spiritual” or religious experience. I dont have that kind of attachment.

      Im just as confused as to why you keep on with arguing for the nonexistence of somethjng. I did it. Theres a post right here on this blog. Have you not seen it?

  18. Not accepting a claim based on the evidence presented does not create a position to refute. That’s the point – he insists that the critic present an assertion that he can then attack. I guess this tactic is used because his belief is indefensible or he’s under the impression that it’s immune to scrutiny.

    And I suppose it’s not possible that you’re just not interpreting the evidence correctly? Also, you never explain why you reject Christianity. It’s almost as though you expect people to take your thoughts as pure gold without ever offering any.

    For example, you say you find Noah and the Ark “utterly implausible” but fail to explain. Why?

  19. @Terrence
    Thank you for making my point.

    “Not interpreting the evidence correctly” is a perfect example of what I just said about seeing the world through rose colored glasses and filtering everything from a Christian perspective to fit the conclusion that Christianity is true.

    I didn’t expound on the story of Noah’s Ark because I didn’t want to go off on too much of a tangent. I guess it may be difficult for those who really think that story is factual to grasp the problems with logistics, food, waste, construction, the sheer quantity of animals as well as the amount of water needed to cover the earth.

    I suppose it’s possible if you’re willing to redefine circumstances, biology and language. A simple google search on “Noah’s Ark logistics” would be a good place to begin a critical and objective examination of the story.

  20. Marius de Jess says:

    Atheists are into flight from logic, but into freedom of illogical attitude: they know that God exists in concept first and foremost as the creator and operator of the universe and man and everything with a beginning, when they be rational instead of emotional – i.e. into the freedom of irrational attitude, indulging in their grudges against God: wherefore they are into the escape from reason, taking up instead with their taboo and phobia from thinking on truths, logic, facts and the history of ideas.

  21. Marius de Jess says:

    This is a very instructive article on the heart and mind of atheists, namely, they atheists are into completely obfuscating and obscuranting subjective arbitrariety with their denial of God existing, in concept as first and foremost the creator and operator of the universe and man and everything with a beginning.

    Atheists don’t have any rational argument at all in support of their denial of God existing, what they do is to pose all kinds and manners of self-obfuscation and self-obscurantism, and imagine that they are so smart, but any person with reason sees into their core subjective arbitrariety.

    The study of atheists must concentrate on psycho-analyzing them in order to find out what are their psychological profile in life, which brings them to such a miserable self-immersion in subjective arbitrariety with denying God existing, in concept as first and foremost the creator and operator of the universe and man and everything with a beginning.

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