I have had this discussion on other threads and I wanted to get your opinions on what most fellow Atheists consider an "Atheist".

I have always considered an "Atheist" as someone who does not believe in even the possibility of a God/Gods, an afterlife, reincarnation of any kind, energies "living on" or being "transferred to other forms" after death, ghosts/souls, and/or superstitious beliefs.

I have not considered Buddhists atheists as they still believe in "energies" and the sorts; and believe that people who say that they believe in the "possibility" of an afterlife as agnostics or the sorts - I have been an atheist for example since I was 15-16 and maybe an agnostic for a couple of years before then.

For example, I am sure that Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and the likes all fit into the aforementioned definition of an "Atheist". So, what do you think?

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As I understand it, a-gnosia (no knowledge) is something that we don't know or think we cannot know, whereas a- theism (no god)  is a supernatural entity that we don't believe exists or think we cannot believe exists. 

That makes me an agnostic atheist, like most atheists I know. 


I not know everything so I can never know that there is nothing that someone who has lived would consider to be a god that I might consider a god also, if I had good evidence of its existence.  OTOH, the more I learn and understand about logic and science the less reason I have for believing in any of the "evidence" so far put forward by religious people for the existence of their particular version of the supernatural. The Christian religion gets sillier the more I look into it and there is no other religion that I am aware of that believes in a god that has any more credible proof of existing.  This is coupled with the fact that all religious fanatics believe that they have the one and only truth and everyone else is deluded or wrong.  They can't all be right but they can all be arrogantly ignorant and wrong. Most of the things that gods were traditionally invoked to explain have been well explained or better explained by science, including the theories about the as-yet-unknown phenomena.  Since there is essentially no difference between the way the world looks with or without the existence of a god it is expedient to believe that no god exists.  In spite of the fact that I can never be 100 percent certain that no god exists I choose to believe that one does not exist because it is so improbable that one could exist that it would be stupid to behave as if one did. 


I would come to the same conclusion about anything that science supports or fails to support over and over again.  I would be stupid not to.  I am not certain that the sun will rise tomorrow but I would be stupid if I behaved as if it would not without some convincing proof that it might not.  I could never be 100 percent certain that Camping had it wrong and the end of the world was not coming when he said it would but that there was a lot of convincing evidence that he had it wrong again, and that he was in the good company of the dozens (or even hundreds) of other end-of-world predictors who have been proved wrong over the centuries. So I choose to believe that he was foolishly mistaken, which turned out to be justified, unless you believe his ingenious face-saving but rationally weak re-interpretation of the event as "spiritual" rather than physical. 


In other words, I am an agnostic atheist because there are very few things that I can be absolutely certain about unless they consensually agreed upon definitions of something or self-evident constants and yet the concept of any version of a god existing is so highly improbable that I choose to believe that one does not, in fact, exist.  As with any scientifically expressed hypothesis, I will change my mind if new evidence is presented that is more persuasive.  So far no theist has come up with anything new or compelling in this regard.



The whole thing is complicated by the fact that theists choose to give the words a different meaning than the ones generally used by those who accept the terms as descriptions of themselves.  According to evangelic brand theists, an a-theist is one who has "rejected god", "turned their back on god" "rejected god's morality" all of which are logical impossibilities for someone who does not believe that such an entity is more than remotely possible.

It is also complicated by the fact that some people describe themselves as "atheists"  when they have little or no interest in religion  and know nothing other one other than what the surrounding culture has taught them about the most prominent gods worshiped in the region.  They have no carefully thought out "reason" for their lack of belief.  These are the "atheists" who "convert" to Christianity. 

Try this for a definition from Mano Singham which, I think, covers all positions:


Atheist: One for whom god is an unnecessary concept.


He goes on to suggest: This definition leaves little room for agnostics because they will have to answer the question as to whether they think God is necessary as an explanatory concept for anything. If they say “no”, they are in the same camp as atheists. If they say “yes”, they are effectively religious and would be required to show where the necessity arises.


(See: http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2011/06/28/a-redefinition-o...   Jerry Coyne's blog)

In my definition of "athesim," the atheist sees no convincing evidence for the god that you name.


Dobbie@ SKEPTiCvsBiBLE

I prefer the term "apatheist" in that if there is a God, he doesn't seem to care about humanity or Earth, and so I don't care about gods. I consider myself an atheist because no definition of any god worth believing in is coherent, intellectually satisfying, or backed by evidence. Sure, there may be a deistic prime mover who kicked off the universe for some unknown reason, but I don't believe in that, because I see no reason to. Either way, Theist has come to mean something different from Deist, and I certainly don't think there could be a theistic god; a theistic god would be one who cares about humanity, intervenes in our affairs, and who is worth worshiping/revering. While I am "a-deistic" in the weak sense, I am an "a-theist" in the strong sense. It is irrational to believe in "God."
I also tend to side with the spirit of the quote by Stephen F. Roberts "I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours." While I agree with the common criticism that most theists don't actually reject other gods in the same way atheists reject all gods and mystical nonsense, it is a useful quote. I often consider myself incredibly interested in religion, yet "religiously homeless." It would be great if there was a religion like Daniel Dennet talks about, one that really seeks truth and embraces an atheistic, humanistic ritualism that celebrates our spirit and encourages/organizes community events and charities, but without the superstitious and irrational ways of doing things. Too often theism is directly linked to religion, because they usually go hand-in-hand. There are very few theists who don't just cling to some tradition of ridiculous, authoritarian  "revelation" from thousands of years ago. People generally are clear thinking about all superstition but their own; many Christians I know will reject new-agey bullshit like crystal healing and holistic medicine in a scientific and rational way. These same people then pray for illnesses without seeing the disconnect. It is hard to reject silly ways of thinking without making it clear that you reject the biggest load of prevalent nonsense in history: god, the afterlife, and spirits.

I certainly see what Sassan was saying in the original post; certainly many who would identify as atheists would also reject the possibility of all paranormal and spiritual things, and maybe that is what the definition of atheist is moving towards in a practical way. I would choose another term, if possible, simply for the sake of being clear to the rest of the world on what my general stance is if forced to label myself. I think many other atheists do too (freethinkers, brights, contrarians, agnostic-atheist, nonbeliever, heretic, skeptics, nonreligious, deconverted, etc.), simply because we tend to be more nuanced, free-thinking individuals. Atheistic Buddhists exist; even atheistic Christians exist; we aren't talking about people who simply have no God tradition in their superstition, however, when we make a group like ThinkAtheist. As we look towards the future, we have to struggle against the baggage of the term "atheist," while also breathing new meaning into it. We have to struggle against the ignorant who call atheism a religion, merely to imply that we are on the same intellectual and "faith-based" level as the believers; at the same time we see the need to form organizations that are able to stand up for our positions (the need to think clearly and not involve irrational ancient "revelations" in the argument) in politics and the media.

Atheism has a proud philosophical tradition, as it is a category filled with skeptics and heretics and scientists. We stand for heresies and skepticism and science as the best forms of protest and the best way of shaping the future in a better image. Some will not want to embrace that image as part of their label. For them, atheist is simply a label for their lack of belief, in a noncontroversial sort of way. Just as there is a spectrum of believers, we have a spectrum of nonbelief. It seems like we will likely face more and more sectarian disputes as we form organizations with the good intentions of providing an alternative to religions. As we grow in numbers and voice, we will likely face the same sort of "true-believers" kind of mindset that religions have, because all organizations have trouble keeping a coherent and directed message. Many of us want the same political and social changes, however we don't all agree to anything like a dogma beyond 'there are no gods, and science is better than mythical, authoritarian tradition.' Language is usually more important as used than as derived; this is especially true when it is a reclaimed label like "atheist," which was originally used as an insulting label to dismiss certain philosophical positions.

I suppose, though, the main problem for the word "atheism" is whether you are using it to exclude yourself from a group like Christianity, or include yourself in a group like many of us do on this board.

"Every humanist is an atheist"

Not immediately sure about that one. Most "religious" people are only culturally religious, i.e. they marry in churches and baptise their children. However, besides not labelling themselves atheists, and some even actually strongly believe in a God, this only applies to them personally.

Secular humanists are usually atheists, but it is not a requirement.

(When I was confirmed humanist at age 14 there were still a limited few of us which still believed in God.)

While sometimes there may be a fine line between being an atheist and agnostic, I think its up to the person to decide what they are. I have some viewpoints that lie more on the agnostic side but I don't believe there is a God or Gods. So I identify with being an atheist. Lets stay away from what major religons do like try and decide things for us. Lets give individuals their own say.

Its funny that you call my response silly after just a few words. You obviously didnt fully understand what I meant. Look around, there are people everywhere that are trying to force people in certain religions. I wasn't referring to atheism so make sure you understand before you use your patronizing adjectives.


What I was trying to get at, was the argument over words and where we fit in. Similar to what you have been saying,  I've read in these discussions that there are many definitions for these words so that means the authors even couldn't decide on a final definition, why should we have to label everyone in permanent marker. Being agnostic or atheism should be a path to free thinking for those who have been held down by the teachings of their upbringing and society. You are just being like them if you are trying debate people about what they are. At the end of the day, who really cares. Lets divert the majority of attention into understanding ourselves and worry about others less.


Also a tip, space out your paragraphs. So people would be more willing to read your comments.

Mark its apparent that you are trying to read more into my statements that is actually there. You have developed this crusade over words, and are trying to have a debate with me when there is nothing to debate over. I don't know why it took you three paragraphs to explain your point. When did I make claims over these words? I never did. I just gave my opninon on the matter. I felt and still feel that having such a deep debate over these issues is futile.


You would be better off if you stop making assumptions about strangers and what they really believe. Because you are going to be wrong everytime. Its just funny that you think I'm trying to define something. I just gave an opinion that these definitions are not that important. It would probably be beneficial to get rid of the words and offer up a statement as to what we identify with as indiviudals.


Of course you are going to read into what I'm saying tenfold and make vast assumptions and become furious at claims you believe I'm making. If so don't bother responding, I won't read it.

Anyone not believing in a god or gods is an atheist.

I'm with Jared on this one - I have been having some thought on this and I remain convicned and bewildered why anyone who would consider the possibility of god (other than in the sense that I can't disprove the existence of god because it is not falsifiable just like I can't disprove dragons) would call themselves atheist. Being atheist has the connotation of intellect and reason. It also bewilders me how someone who believed in reincarnation, some type of afterlife, or ghosts or souls would call themselves atheist. They still believe in irrationality.

While there might be a dictionary definition - in practice and reality - I don't think the atheists who are scientists and intellectuals would consider the self-proclaimed atheists that fit the other category as true atheists. This is my only conclusion based not on a dictionary definition - but in common practice among the intellectual atheists who consider themselves atheist - and what it means to be an atheist.

Oh now we have "true" atheists and not true atheists.
Should we have multiple sects of atheists as Christians have numerous denominations? I'm being sarcastic, but if we squabble over what is a "true" atheist, then we sound like some religious people who say "if you don't believe exactly as I do, then you're going to hell".


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