Today we had a religion quiz and were doing it in groups.My friends are christians and we were group 1 with group 2 behind us.I was answering the questions as well.One question was "What is an atheist".I grabbed the sheet of paper and wrote down : An atheist is someone who lacks a belief in a god or gods.We swapped sheets of paper with group 2.Their answer was someone who doesn't follow a religion.I thought you could call it that as well and we marked it right.We handed back sheets and my answer was marked incorrect.I was annoyed of course,I think I should know myself what an atheist is,after all I'm one.What do ye think?
It's a lack in the sense that it's absent, just like you have a lack of pigment causing you to be white and not black.
To not have a belief is surely to lack a belief, it's not a negative thing however to say the absence of superstition does not imply a lack of superstition proves a misunderstanding of the word "lack".
Well, you're both correct! The word "atheist" literally means "not a theist," as in, you don't subscribe to a religion or theistic god, supernatural being, whatever. This could just be because you've lived under a rock all you're life and you've never heard of religion; or it could be because you choose to be atheistic (AKA: Non-religious).
However, a lot of people are under the misconception that an atheist believes there is no god. This positive view (positive because they hold a belief in something even if it is the belief that that something is not there) is called gnostic atheism. A gnostic atheist does not subscribe to a theism and, on top of that, believes that they are satisfied with a knowledge that there is no god. Not only do they merely LACK the belief, they actively disbelieve.
On the other hand, you can be an agnostic atheist. This would mean that you don't have a religion and you do not claim to have knowledge on whether there is a god or not. Like you said, it's not a DISbelief, it's just a lack of belief.
This is what a lot of people mean when they say they are "agnostic." If you're just agnostic and not an agnostic atheist, then you just claim a lack of knowledge but, really, since no one can proove anything either way, that's everyone. Agnostics who are not atheistic may very well be a member of a religion just because they like the sense of community. They could obey the doctrine and follow the scripture and still not know or have faith that it makes any difference.
I personally think a lot of people are in that grey area of agnosticism. Really, everyone should just drop the game of semantics and just call a spade a spade. If you're not part of a religion, you're an atheist. Gnostic or agnostic. Come out of the atheist closet!
Hope this helped :D
The only thing that makes me wince is the use of terms like "Lack" or "Absence", which tend to imply there is a hole left unfilled. I think it would be fairer to say that theists have a surfeit or overabundance of belief, implying that they are a glutton for punishment. Especially if they're Catholic :)
I've always equated my freedom from superstition to being merely atheist, but maybe it's more than that. To remain unconvinced that there is a supreme being of any type, and all that implies, is enough to make one an atheist. However, what about those of us who have no spiritual side in the traditional sense of the word? What do you call someone who is not only free from the taint of religion, but free from any belief in the supernatural?
Damn those Catholics. I'm still seething over their crooked ideology foisted upon my brain against my will.
I think some of us try to separate spirituality from the supernatural. I don't think a supernatural realm exists and I don't even believe in ghosts. However I think a spiritual "energy" might be possible.
You make a good point about connotation. I like your way of putting it much better!
I don't know that there is a word for people who are free from all supernatural ideas. Like you said, "spirituality" can be interpreted many different ways. I would imagine that a "spiritual" atheist might use the term as a synonym for "meditative" and be very in-touch with their personal essence and their surroundings (I'm thinking of atheists that often come out of paganism). This is in contrast to a religious sense of spirituality which in this case would be the idea that your "self" is transcendental (as in, it can exist in many dimensions of time and space or none at all since it goes to heaven/hell) and is not a result of nature or nuture. I don't know of any atheists that would buy into that definition since we're pretty insistent on having proof.
In all actuality, you're answer was correct (obviously) and theirs was not fully correct. A person can very easily now follow a religion and believe in a deity. This makes them a theist, not an Atheist. And then there is always the old phrase 'spiritual but not religious'.