Atheism is not an idea Bob. It's not meant to compete with anything. Your obsession with trying to put the rejection of a stupid idea on the same level as a stupid idea will never succeed no matter how desparately hard to try to shove that circle into a square...though I have to say your insistence is remarkable.

@Davis Goodman has chased me around any number of threads here with this insistence, and I'm curious what the rest of folks here think.

For me, religion is just an area where people have competing ideas.  Some religions believe in One God, some in many gods.  Atheism is just part of that range of competing ideas, the one that maintains there are no gods.  There are communities of individuals who self-identify - I am a Catholic, I am an atheist, etc. - and they argue for their positions or against the opposing ideas.  Those can be animated arguments, to be sure, but they are principled.

By contrast, there are people who choose just to oppose another group.  They spend their days railing about how bad or awful or stupid some other group of people are.  For me, these are hate groups.  They aren't making a principled argument for their own idea(s), they are instead simply trumpeting how awful other folks or ideas are.

It's the difference between making a principled argument in favor of traditional sexual morality and being a homophobe.  The former is arguing in favor of a position; the latter is vilifying a group that holds a different practice or idea. 

So which one is atheism?

Is the notion that there are no god(s) a principled idea, which competes with various religious notions that there are god(s) of different sorts?   I think that it is, myself. 

Or is atheism not an idea, and people who self-identify as atheists really aren't advocating for a position, they're just united by their opposition to the ideas and practices of others?  Sometimes here we see this, too, complete with hate-speech like associating religious instruction with "child abuse."

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Is the notion that there are no god(s) a principled idea

This is very clever word tricks Dr. Bob. Atheism is not the "notion" of anything. It is the rejection of the claims that the religious adding yet another word (notion) that would pull atheism into the class of an idea...won't help anything. You've also turned idea into a principled idea for some reason which I don't understand. You've also turned "the rejection of the statement: god exists" into a positive statement "There are no gods". I doubt you will find too many posts here with people claiming with total confidence "there are no Gods". To see the difference and notice the subtle difference in the way people discuss their positive claims and rejection of claims would require...paying attention to what people say.

Rejecting the statement "God exists" is not the same as saying "There is no god" and you should know better. You can reject the statement "God exists" without claiming "there are no Gods". Only dogmatic atheists say with certainty "Gods do not exists" or even further say "Gods could not exist". Not all atheists make those claims. All they have in common is the rejection of the claim "God exists". Where is the principle behind that that is unique to atheism? Some reject the statement because it simply comes across as ludicrous. Others have absolutely no time for it (igtheists). Others reject it through critical thinking or through rationalism. Some do so for no particular reason at all...they simply don't have time for religious nonsense and could probably no explain why they've dismissed it. They don't have to. There's not only no idea behind it...but not even an explanation as to how they got there.

As for your "atheism" is just one view in the realm of ideas on Just as rejecting the claim that elvis is still alive isn't "just one more view" in the realm of "The King-ology". It's the rejection of a stupid idea. Your sky-god-religion is no different...regardless of how long these silly ideas have been around and how many tall buildings you've built.

To put the question another way, does believing in God matter?  (To atheists, obviously not.) 

I think the biggest implication is for the moral system: the two versions have different bases, but they can wind up the same. 

Apart from that, atheists don't have some asshole bothering them 24/7 (ie. God) to tell them they're not worthy. 

Simply stated, Atheism is the lack of belief in the existence of God(s). It is impossible to fully grasp what it means to be an atheist without becoming one. However you can to some degree if you consider some of the gods you don’t believe in.

Take the Hindu God Vishnu for example. Several million people believe in the existence of this god. I am an atheist when it comes to belief in Vishnu. I do not believe that God exists. I believe those who believe it is real are mistaken in their belief. As long as none of them tell me I must believe in that God or that my government and its various departments, (including Education) must be structured according to its tenets then I am happy to leave it alone. If it lurches into the Secular world then I will rally against it, not because I am an atheist, but because I am, when it comes to what I consider religious incursions into the secular world, an Anti-theist.

If that religion respects my right not to believe then it will find me to be an ally. I will be amongst the first to stand up to defend it and its follower’s rights to practice it. I will be as energetic in that defence as I am when challenging it.

It is the same with the Christian God, Yahweh or God as most Christians refer to Him. Millions believe this God exists in reality. I do not. I do not believe what Christians believe. I do not believe what they tell me of this God. I find the claims made by Christians to be extraordinary…..and as you know…extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence (or even a shred of it would do me). As I see no evidence for this God I have dismissed the idea.

It cost no energy for me not to believe in either of those gods. (Not that kind of energy Bob). It requires no faith not to believe in them. It is not a matter of degrees. I do not believe in Vishnu any less than I do not believe in Yahweh. My disbelief is not militant. However to some extent you can as a theist understand this because you do not believe in Vishnu in the same way that I do not. Neither of us have put any effort into not believing Vishnu is a “real” God. However if you knew some of the terrible things done in the name of that God you might consider yourself an anti-theist towards the hierarchy of that religion and not want it to be taught to children in schools, just like me. Just like me you would be happy if it helped people to form a worldview that made sense of things for them. We all might call out in our darkest hours but we do not call out to something we do not believe exists. So neither of us would be too concerned about taking that away from people, even though we both know that they are mistaken in believing that supernatural god is “real”.

From that example you should at least understand what it means not to believe in a particular god. You are to some extent an atheist because there are thousands of gods that, like us, you do not believe in them existing even if most of our ancestors did. As the adage goes, we go one god further than you. We believe that none of them exist. There is nothing to believe in, nothing to reject.

For me none of them are believable ideas. The thing is Bob – and this is not just you – no theist I know can give me a valid reason to believe in your God. Not only that, most cannot even tell me why they still believe in god. So I now just dismiss the idea. I find it disingenuous of people to insist that the god they tell me they believe in is real without telling me why they do. I find it more annoying when they then proceed to want their beliefs to be given a religious privilege over the atheists (secularists) desires for equality. I dismiss all gods equally. I do not do so out of hand.

I grew up in a Catholic household where everyone I knew until the age of about 12 was a Catholic. Ok, there were a few exceptions and it was in considering those exceptions that the seeds of my doubt were planted. I flirted with religions for about 6 months when I went to University but one day I just stopped believing it all. It made no sense to me and for a while, a few years maybe, I have it little or no more thought. Then one day I came to realise I was in fact an atheist. I had been for long time but it was only when I had a name for my lack of belief that it made sense. I realised it was all just mythology. I had not rejected God as I had sometimes thought I had, it was just that I was an Atheist because I did not belief it.

30 years later I am still an Atheist. I now fight to remove religious privilege from society and to help people to de-convert from their faith (which they were indoctrinated into, usually as children) and to come to terms with being a free thinking person who happens to now be an atheist. I am always “thinking atheist”

However once someone becomes aware of their atheism it is only natural to rethink what one has been told for years is the truth. If God did not do it then how (not why) did it happen? We are compelled to look for new answers. What is the best tool we have to get answers? Science is. Science does not care for the truth. It do not seek to assert that an idea is right. It first tries to destroy it. If it cannot be destroyed then it can be considered to be worthy of further consideration. If it reaches a (peer reviewed) consensus then we can incorporate it into our body of knowledge and use it to formulate new ideas about the world around us. The answers don’t have to be the absolute truth, they just have to be credible. This allows us to build a worldview based upon Reason and not one structured through Faith. Ireland at the moment is the perfect example of a country that has grown stronger by breaking free of the shackles of religious control.

So what flows from Atheism gives rise to a worldview that is different to that of religion. We do not see a personal god (or any kind of god) as being behind anything we observe. To paraphrase the physicist Laplace “We have no need of that (god) hypothesis”. God might suffice as an answer for some but for us Atheists it is not sufficient.  

Atheism is not an idea. It is just that by “Thinking Atheist” that we come up with new ideas.

I am, when it comes to what I consider religious incursions into the secular world

Just curious... what or where is the "secular world?"

I will answer that in a seperate post Dr. Bob. In the meanwhile can you tell us why you don't believe in Vishnu?

Simply stated, Atheism is the lack of belief in the existence of God(s).

Atheists are fond of portraying atheism this way, but that is really more a definition of agnosticism than atheism. The agnostic doesn't know whether God exists (a=lack or absence of, gnosis=knowledge). If you state the definition of atheism that way, then atheism collapses into agnosticism.

Following the normal rules of grammar, the lack of belief in something is, in fact, not believing it. For example, if I don't believe I left my glasses in the car, then I believe I didn't leave my glasses in the car.

It just doesn't make sense for someone to, in effect if not in words, say "God doesn't exist but I don't believe it."

An agnostic says I don't know if God exists.

An atheist rejects claims (made by believers) that God exists.

Those are notably different.

An atheist rejects claims (made by believers) that God exists.

And thus lacks knowledge of God's existence. (a=lack/absence, gnosis=knowledge)

Not so notably different.

No. An atheist is able to outright reject the arguments the religious make for the existence of God. No evidence that has been presented passes the test. They do not all...however say with certainty that God does not exist. Only dogmatic ones do. This means that evidence might, one day be presented that is acceptable.

An agnostic does not outright reject the arguments the religious make for the existence of God...nor accept them. Going further, dogmatic agnostics claim that it is impossible to know (even with very good evidence presented).

That is quite a notable difference.

You're making my head ache. So, some atheists, you seem to admit, are non-dogmatic agnostics.

Anyone who hasn't formed an opinion as to the existence of God defaults to what you seem to imply is non-dogmatic agnosticism.

Anyway, if I ask you if God exists, you can say yes or you can say no, both of which express beliefs. If you are in the middle, you're at least some kind of agnostic.

No. You can say yes without saying no. That's a non-dogmatic atheists. An agnostic neither says yes nor no.

Whether you use Reg's definition (a lack of belief in God) or the critical thinking definition (rejecting the claims made that God exists), which are virtually identical...none of them imply you have to make a negative claim (that God does not exist). You have, at least committed to one thing...that is the rejection of the claims sky-god believers make (or with Reg's definition...a lack of belief in it). Dogmatic atheist do make the negative claim...but that is not essential to being an atheist.

Agnostics do not commit to anything. Neither rejecting the claims that God exists nor accepting them. Dogmatic agnostics claim that it is impossible to commit to either of these.

So no...they are not the same. The only thing atheists have in common is the rejection of the specific claims made by sky-god believers...that their God exists (as we know there are atheists who reject the claims made by abrahamic-sky-god believers yet still believe in very strange stuff like spirits or even semi-god like entities). The only thing Agnostics have in that they won't commit to rejecting that claim (nor accepting it)...or...they won't commit to anything.

Negative claims (claiming that God doesn't exist with certainty) have nothing to do with defining atheists nor agnostics though an atheist can make one if they choose (but doesn't have to)...while an agnostic won't.

An atheist can hold open the remote possibility that claims made in the future about a sky-god won't be so easily dismissed though they don't have to. All agnostics hold open that remote possibility.

So yes...some atheists have one thing in common with all agnostics (holding open the remote possibility that claims about the sky-god will not be so easily dismissed) though not all atheists...the dogmatic one's outright reject it all.


That seems like a lot of work to avoid stating affirmatively, as a belief that can change based on evidence, that God doesn't exist. 

I don't see the point.


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