Atheism as a belief.

I hear time and time again that atheism is NOT a belief. To me that seems to be a semantic argument.

Your belief is that there are no higher powers. If you had no belief at all you would be ambivalent.

You, strongly or weakly as it may be, “believe” there are no higher powers.

Posted: July 6th 2011

bitbutter www

Semantic means having to do with meaning. All discussion is semantic in this sense, so I’m not sure what you have in mind when you say that the claim that atheism is not a belief is a “semantic argument”.

You are correct to point out that that many atheists do hold a positive belief that no gods exist. I hold this belief, for instance.

But atheism itself does not require this positive belief. A person who (for whatever reason) was not even aware of the idea of gods would also be an atheist, since he would lack belief in the existence of gods.

Posted: July 18th 2011

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If you are discussing what the meaning of “atheism” is, then by definition you are making a semantic argument. That’s what semantics mean.

My atheism is a result in my lack of beilef that god exists. I have further beliefs in that area – for example, I think that given the definitions of god that I’ve come across, there isn’t a rational way in which one can apply an existence test to them. But that belief isn’t what makes me an atheist.

You used the word “ambivalent”. I do not think it means what you think it means. Perhaps “uninterested” is the word you are looking for.

Posted: July 14th 2011

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Philip www

I don’t “believe” in anything – I arrive at my conclusions based on the available evidence and I remain convinced until proven otherwise by better evidence.

Given that there is no clear definition of what even a god is, how am I supposed to be able to understand what a god is let alone acknowledge it’s existence or what “higher powers” are supposed to be?

Atheism to me is simply another word to describe my rejection of your conviction that there is this “being” or “higher power” that you speak of – you haven’t explained yourself properly and I don’t think you ever could.

Posted: July 14th 2011

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Ophelia Benson www

Sure, atheism is a belief. Thinking there is not an invisible scarlet anteater on my lap as I type is a belief. Thinking it is not raining tractor parts outside my window is a belief. Thinking my laptop was not made by The Ford Motor Company is a belief.

I have a lot more beliefs than I ever realized. I’m exhausted already.

Posted: July 11th 2011

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Mike the Infidel www

Do you believe alien abduction claims? If your answer is no…
Do you believe there cannot possibly be any alien abductions? If your answer is “I don’t know”...

Congratulations. You’ve just disproved your own argument.

Posted: July 10th 2011

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brian thomson www

Your first mistake is that you are telling other people what they think, in contradiction of what those same people say they think. When is that ever a good idea? Think about it!

Speaking for myself: I am kind-of ambivalent, in the sense that I’m not coming at this atheism business with an expectation of certainty. If I was certain there are no gods, that would be a position that I would need to justify. I am not certain about that, but I do not feel I need to be certain about any of this. I don’t even think it’s an important question to ask, since nothing I see in the world around me leads me to worry about such a thing. In previous centuries it might have, but not in this century, with all we know about reality. So, do I have a “belief” in reality? Hardly. Reality is not contingent on my belief or lack of belief. I don’t have any delusions that it cares what I think about it.

So where does that leave your argument? It’s based on the assumption that the question (of “higher powers”) is important, and that people have got to have a hard belief either way. This is a false dichotomy: why is this such a big deal? A lot of people in the past thought it was, but it doesn’t have to be that way today. You’ve been told it’s a big deal: who told you it was? Are you sure they’re right about that? It’s OK to say “I don’t know” if you have no evidence for a proposition; it’s also OK to say “I don’t care” if you can see no reason why you should care.

Posted: July 9th 2011

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Blaise www

Well, I suppose you could call using the correct definition of a word “a semantic argument”, but I suspect most people would disagree with you. The fact is that many (I can’t say most, as I haven’t met them all) atheists do not believe that gods are impossible, just unlikely.

Not having a belief in something is not the same as believing something doesn’t exist. To a rationalist, belief must be based upon evidence and logic. Most folks agree that there is no real evidence for or against the existence of a god, so we can only rely on logic. Logic suggests that at the very least, the gods recognized by current organized religions are self-contradictory and improbable, but it’s fairly neutral on the possibility of gods in general.

We aren’t ambivalent because we are constantly assaulted with religion by our society. It has nothing to do with belief, and everything to do with civic equality.

Posted: July 9th 2011

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