Hello fellow Atheists! After years of observing the interactions between Theists and Atheists, I've realized that the definition of "Atheist" itself is rather nebulous (excepting the universal belief that there is no god). Thus, we should compile an unambiguous definition of what it means to be an atheist without bringing individual philosophies into conflict. 

If we can all create a unified definition, then that can render the "atheism is ambiguous and vague" attacks of Theists moot. But more importantly, it can help us achieve the same-level of philosophical self-surety that believers in organized religion tout. 

let's start with a debate in the comments section

- Param

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Surely the only thing all atheists have in common is the fact that we do not believe in god?

"Atheist" shouldn't mean anything besides that. That should be the only real definition. Saying "I'm an atheist" should only be a statement about your position on one issue, and one issue only. Nothing more, nothing less.

I should point out that for most non-believers, the definition of "atheist" isn't a belief that there is no god; it is a lack of belief in a god.

Seems semantic but there is a difference.

Anybody who believes that isn't doing it because of logic or evidence but because they are biased, xenophobic, closed minded, ingnorant knaves.

We do not agree on why we do not believe in god.

In my opinion, the only framework that would apply to everyone is reason. Is there any other way in which to come to the conclusion we all have?

I think there is. In my head is irrefutable proof. And it is quite depressing that other atheists come at a different angle. Not depressing because my ego isn't flattered but because my answer seems so true.

The ingredients needed are

  • perspective
  • reason
  • logic
  • Occam's razor
  • an understanding of how we react

Use these and the answer becomes so clear, so obvious.

This is where I start. Have you ever been in a tornado, an earthquake, a tsunami, a drought, a flood etc? They are very scarey situations where you can come face-to-face with your own mortality.

Now take yourself back to a time of limited perspective, limited knowledge, limited horizons, heightened fear, and say hello to the first gods. Local and literal.

These local Gods merged with local gods of others. Eventually, given time and 'civilisation' these Gods formed a pantheon such as the Ancient Greeks, Egyptians etc.

Within civilisation it was noted how the people love/have faith in their gods and how power and control could be wielded through this faith.

So they created monotheistic religions. Ambiguity lost and teachings centralised, the purveyors of monotheistic religions spread their word and passive-aggressively found more power than they would have dreamed of.

And we know what power does...

I should point out that for most non-believers, the definition of "atheist" isn't a belief that there is no god; it is a lack of belief in a god.

Seems semantic but there is a difference.

@ Abdullah - I don't believe in God(s). I lack belief in God(s). These mean the same thing to me. I 'don't have' and I 'lack' (same thing). What am I missing?

Mabel, the two statements you make are indeed equivalent to each other, but they are not matches for Abdullah's two statements you quoted, which are:

a belief that there is no god

vs

lack of a belief in a god

The first of Abdullah's statements does not correspond to your first statement "I don't believe in God(s)."  Your two phrasings express the lack of something, a belief in god.  If you think about it, a turnip lacks a belief in god.  Or in anything else for that matter.  "I don't believe in God" does not mean necessarily that you are positive there is no god.  When you express that you are sure that god doesn't exist, then and only then do you have "a belief that there is no god."  Most atheists won't go that far (I am one who will).

Sorry for being absent from this for a few days.

Thanks for clarifying, Steve. That's exactly it.

Tobie is right in saying that anybody who thinks that atheists cannot be good without god is ignorant. At the same time, I don't think that being an atheist gives you any particular moral framework to be good. It is nothing but a lack of belief in god (or a belief that there is no god - I won't make the mistake of not differentiating again, haha).

If we do want a better phrase to show why we do good without god, perhaps that term is "secular humanist". You care about humans without any divine intervention/inspiration, and that is why you treat humans well.

Being termed as an atheist does not mean that you will be a good person, or will have the same moral framework as all other atheists. For that reason, I don't think there needs to be an atheist manifesto, as appealing as that sounds.

Not trying to flame or reject your idea out of hand, because I do think it would be a very good thing for us to have. But it's not that black-and-white.

I don't think it's right, though to assume that any atheist is a humanist.  (And the reverse isn't true either.)  And you apparently agree with that.

If I understand you right you want a core group of statements all atheists can endorese by virtue of not believing in doG.

I personally would refuse to sign onto an "Atheist Manifesto" that includes secular humanist statements in it that not all atheists share.  For one thing, I don't share them.  In fact, I would have to go out of my way to state that this "atheist" group that claims to speak for atheism does not speak for me even though I am an atheist.  Keep it to the essential core of atheism--or call it the "Athiestic Secular Humanist (ASH) Manifesto."  I still won't sign it but it won't pertain to me--since it talks about ASH, and I am not an ASH.  And I therefore won't feel the need to explicitly disavow it since it doesn't claim to represent me.

If you want to try to point out that atheism does not preclude morality (and I think you should, even as an element of a "core atheist" manifesto), you could include a statement that "We believe morality is not handed down from God but rather derives from naturalistic considerations." and leave it at that.  You've stated morality doesn't require god, and that's all an atheist, qua atheist, needs to say.  But if you try to specify what the morality actually is you are now choosing one form of atheism over another, and you will be pushing ASH (or alternatively something secular humanists will hate), not simple core atheism.

It's easy too argue (I say easy because I've seen the late Christopher hitchens do it as would be able to spell out the same arguments) that doing "good" because you are ordered to do so is far less value than doing so out of your natural genetic insentive to do so. However I do see the religious argument that if you only do good when you feel it is good you are leaving moral questions to the subjectivity of the moment. In response though I state that secular moral codes are still exactly that, codes, they are still restrictions on the will of any individual's instant feelings, if a secular man wants to punh another and feels as he/she desserves it doesn't mean he believes it to be good and will often avoid doing so because he has previously reasoned that violence is often not the best (most moraly accepted) solution. Thus the codes of morals we have are just as valid (if not more) as they control the normal passions of the individual by setting them up agaisnt a pre-established code of behaviour. The only difference is we get to think about it without being restricted by the dumb writings of peasants from 2 millennia ago.

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