Anyone else ever have this thrown at them? I had this thrown at me a while ago and at the time, I did not have a good response to it. My response now would be something to the effect of, "Unbelief of youth in religion is not a reasoned logical disbelief later in life." I think that this is a pretty good response to this argument.
I disagree with your definitions, Kirk. An atheist does not have to deny the existence of God (or gods), simply lack belief in him/them. One does not have to deny that Apollo exists to not believe in him. Just like one does not have to deny that green-furred aliens are living on a planet orbiting Sirius in order to lack a belief in those aliens. There is a difference between denying something's existence and not believing in its existence.
Also, agnostic can either be the philosophical position that god is unknowable, as you pointed out, or a simple admission of a lack of knowledge on the matter. Kind of a "I do not know, as there is insufficient data to make a decision"
I also disagree with Dawkins' scale (which was from 1 to 7, not 1 to 10), by the way. I prefer the 2-dimensional model with agnostic-gnostic making up one axis and atheist-theist making up the other. It seems a more accurate method of portrayal since atheism/theism and agnosticism/gnosticism reference two separate concepts, belief and knowledge. I count myself as an agnostic atheist. I do not believe in any gods, as the evidence for their existence is absent. However, I do not claim to *know* that there are no gods, and new evidence could conceivably convince me that a god or gods do exist.
Nor is everyone a 'Atheist grade 10' with regard to Zeus and Odin. In fact, worship of these gods has been on the rise lately.
I do, however, agree that it is certain;y possible for someone to go from being an atheist who arrived at that position via non-reasoned methods (anger, rebellion, incredulity, etc) to a theist via the same non-reasoned basis.
Just so I understand "There is a difference between denying something's existence and not believing in its existence."
If deny means:
1. To declare untrue; contradict.
2. To refuse to believe; reject.
3. To refuse to recognize or acknowledge; disavow.
It seems that only in deny(1) I have intention or motive for declaring but not necessarily meaning (feeling, owning, truthfully in my heart) that something is untrue. So I don't think you mean deny(1).
If I use deny(2), by substitution, "a difference between refusing to believe in something's existence and not believing in it's existence." seems to eliminate a chance to have a perverse intention to deceive (even self-deception seems unlikely). But it doesn't seem to mean much of anything.
That leaves deny(3) which leads to my favorite subject; self-deception. In this case I refuse to tell you the truth about my belief. In which case I plead the 5th and don't even really and truly deny anything.
My point is, I'm sorry about getting Dawkins wrong even if I didn't get everything you said.
The biggest reason theists tend to misdefine atheism is that atheists are misdefining it, too. Atheism is nothing more then "without theism". "A" is a pre-fix meaning "without". "Theism" means belief in a higher power or powers. Therefore, if you are an atheist, then you are without a belief in a higher power or powers. It is, essentially, a negative description.
Laci's scale uses the theistic bastardization of "atheism". Atheism cannot be a "belief system" because atheism is not a belief. It is a lack of belief.
Truth is, I think both scales are inadequate. I like Dawkins's simply for ease of reference, and I do prefer his to Laci's. But neither really cuts it.
Where I stand on either scale also depends entirely upon which higher power we're discussing, or if we're just discussing the entire concept of higher powers. If the latter, I consider myself a 4 on Dawkins's scale, or a true Agnostic. If the former, then when talking about Yahweh, I can say I'm definitely a 6-leaning-7 on Dawkins's scale, or a Gnostic Atheist.
(Fuck... I can't edit my post below... I misplaced myself on Dawkins's scale down there... where I placed myself in this post is accurate :-P)
This is a hard one for me. I'm actually considering making a video on this.
If, say, they are a theist who was once an atheist, but their becoming a theist did not coincide with their denial of science (that is, they are now a Christian/Jew/Muslim/other theistic religion but they still accept Evolution, the scientific ages of the Earth and Universe, the Big Bang, and so on), then I could believe it.
However, when a Young-Earth Creationist (such as PCS [VenomFangX]) says (s)he used to be an atheist, I can only conclude that (s)he is lying. That's the equivalent, in my mind, of saying (que stereotypical southern redneck accent) "I used to be educated, but now I'm a moron! Yuck yuck yuck yuck yuck..."
Either that, or they are, in that one instance, conceding to the literal connotative definition of atheism (without theism), thereby being hypocritical and still dishonest (in that, as we know, Creationists tend to like to blast atheists by saying "they actively believe that God does not exist" or "they know in their hearts God exists, but they just want to rebel against him"... and both bastardizations of the term "atheist" were used quite a bit by PCS)
In other words, to use Dawkins's scale (sorry Dave :-P), I could believe, say, a 5 to 3, but there is no way I will believe a 7 or 6 to 2 or 1.
For reference, Dawkins's scale is basically this:
1. Strong Theist: I do not question the existence of God, I KNOW he exists.
2. De-facto Theist: I cannot know for certain but I strongly believe in God and I live my life on the assumption that he is there.
3. Weak Theist: I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God.
4. Pure Agnostic: God’s existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable.
5. Weak Atheist: I do not know whether God exists but I’m inclined to be skeptical.
6. De-facto Atheist: I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable and I live my life under the assumption that he is not there.
7. Strong Atheist: I am 100% sure that there is no God.