Atheism is a conclusion, not a belief.

This is some thing I wish more people would realize.

  • Steven Dorst

    Any idea who has the rights to this? I'd like to turn it into a bumper sticker, but want to respect copyright!

  • Kairan Nierde

    Steven, good idea. I'd buy that! Get a graphic designer to work with the placement of the text for you though. This could read better.

  • Unseen

    I'm not sure why so many atheists are insistent on this. The logic escapes me. Not believing God exists is a belief. Can one reach a conclusion and not believe it? The one seems to follow the other.

  • Strega

    Is not believing in the FSM also a belief?

  • Unseen

    @Strega

    Person #1: Do you believe God exists?

    Person #2: No, I believe God does not exist.

    I think any reformulation for Person #1 that answers Person #1's question in the negative will be congruent with believing there is no God.

    As for the Flying Spaghetti Monster, I don't think any sane adult actually considers its existence seriously enough to be said to have reached a conclusion on its existence. For purposes of examining beliefs, you need a subject people take seriously.

  • SteveInCO

    The problem, Unseen is that too many atheists equate the word "belief" with "taken on faith."  Whereas "belief" in fact is what you hold to be true, regardless of how you came to the conclusion.

  • Tom Sarbeck

    Memo to Unseen:

    Can one reach a conclusion and not believe it?

    I can reach a conclusion and keep it tentative, subject to further investigation. I was doing this before I heard of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle.

    As for the Flying Spaghetti Monster, my conclusion as to its existence differs from my conclusion as to its use.

  • Gallup's Mirror

    I'm not sure why so many atheists are insistent on this. The logic escapes me. Not believing God exists is a belief.

    It's the difference between hard atheism and soft atheism.

    Hard atheism is a positive statement that God does not exist. Physicist Victor Stenger presents a supporting scientific case in his book God: The Failed Hypothesis based on what he describes as 'evidence of absence'.

    Soft atheism is disbelief in or unawareness of the concept of Theism. Disbelief is not belief. This is the most common type of atheism since most atheists are former theists and few are aware of the 'evidence of absence' concept.

    You don't allow logic to escape you. You smother it with a pillow until it quits squirming.

  • Freek

    @Unseen

    There is a world of difference between the following sentences:

    - I believe God does not exist

    - I do not believe God exists

    The first one is a belief, but the second one is a conclusion, derived from likelihoods and lack of certainty. 

  • Unseen

    I can reach a conclusion and keep it tentative, subject to further investigation. I was doing this before I heard of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle.

    I think this is the way most normal beliefs are held, not on faith but on trust.

  • Unseen

    The first one is a belief, but the second one is a conclusion, derived from likelihoods and lack of certainty. 

    One gets a belief in various ways, one of them being as the result of an investigation, in which case the investigation reaches a conclusion. There is no logical conviction in having a belief based on an investigation. We just need to distinguish between reasonable beliefs based on the facts we know and beliefs people hold not based on facts at all.

  • Unseen

    Unseen, the word "belief" has baggage attached to it and that is why atheists tend to dislike using it generally. Occam's razor. The original statement is perfectly valid from a logical perspective. There is no need to play semantic games that tend to just confuse everyone involved.

    I think what's confusing to others outside our little community is the insistence that we don't believe something we so obviously do, that theism has no basis in fact or logic and that, thus, we believe there is no God.

    It's the mental gymnastics that confuse, and for us it's inside baseball.

  • Paul Redfern

    It's really quite simple. With all that we know so far about evolution, the universe etc etc, there are explanations which have no need of a divine creator. We cannot prove that there is no god, but it seems pretty unlikely. The problem with faith, religion or whatever you want to call it is that belief gives you what you think is certainty. Science, however, always has a margin of uncertainty, and there is always the chance that new evidence will change our view on the world and universe around us. I can live with that as long as we as human beings continue to try to explain what is going on around us in rational terms.
    I think to get into the pedantics of whether non belief in god is actually a belief is missing the point
  • Unseen

    I think to get into the pedantics of whether non belief in god is actually a belief is missing the point.

    And yet, atheists bring this non-starter up all the time, which simply confuses the issue for outsiders. When one makes a negative statement about something, you either believe it or you don't, and whether your belief comes as the conclusion of an investigation is neither here nor there. 

    If a theist says "Well, okay, you atheists have beliefs, too," we can simply point out that our beliefs are based on an examination of the facts and not by simply deciding to believe something that has no basis in facts.

  • SteveInCO

    The point Unseen is trying to make (I think) is that some of us are so hard over on not using the word "belief" that those people end up looking absurd to others.

  • Unseen

    And it's very easy to expose the absurdity this way: Is it your position that you've concluded God doesn't exist but you don't believe your conclusion? Hmmm....

  • Logicallunatic

    I believe there are no leprechauns. I don't believe in leprechauns. Is there any difference between these two statements? What is it about the second statement that makes it seem like less of a belief and more of a conclusion? I really can't work this one out. 

  • SteveInCO

    You are not alone, LogicalLunatic.  There IS a difference between the two statements, but it's a misuse to try to somehow eschew the word "belief" as implying religiousity or accepting something as true with no evidence.

  • Strega

    I have a disbelief in any god. 

  • Jimmy Russell

    I think a problem with this is also that a theist gets a sence of equality, as in, "see, you have a belief or something that you believe in, and so do I, so that makes us equal and my belief has just as much pull and chance of being believable as yours does".  It makes me think of that line "I don't believe in evolution, I simply understand why it's true".  Same thing, they treat it as if both sides have an equal chance of being right or wrong.  Am I wrong in thinking this way?  Is not the evidence for anything but evolution far outweighed by all that is for it? 

  • Unseen

    Every disbelief is a belief by simply rephrasing. Example: "I have a disbelief in any god" becomes "I believe there are no gods." Semantically, there isn't a dime's worth of difference between the two. They make exactly the same assertion.

  • Unseen

    @Jimmy - One has only to point out that atheism is based on science and (the lack of) evidence, whereas his belief is baseless and requires him to believe that the universe was made by a magical wizard.

  • Strega

    @Unseen - Not really.  You can't grammatically have a disbelief in no gods.  That would be a double negative and you would have to stand in the corner :)

  • Freek

    There is no logical conviction in having a belief based on an investigation. We just need to distinguish between reasonable beliefs based on the facts we know and beliefs people hold not based on facts at all.

    Exactly, but not believing in something is not a belief system. When facts or reason lack, it is logical to not belief in something. And that, to me, in the case of God, is what Atheism is about.

  • Gallup's Mirror

    Example: "I have a disbelief in any god" becomes "I believe there are no gods." Semantically, there isn't a dime's worth of difference between the two. They make exactly the same assertion.

    You're right that the conclusions are the same. The difference is how one arrives at the conclusion; via rejection or affirmation.

    You can't grammatically have a disbelief in no gods.  That would be a double negative and you would have to stand in the corner :)

    I do not not not not not not not not not not not not not believe in God.

    Thus my disbelief in God is tied up in nots.

  • SteveInCO

    Hah, I had to count those to be sure you weren't a theist mole committing a Freudian slip and revealing more than you wanted us to know.

  • Unseen

    @GM

    Every affirmation can be rephrased as a semantically equivalent disaffirmation. 

    The fact remains that there's a severe logical problem to say you've arrived  at a conclusion and then say "I don't believe that."

  • Unseen

    @Strega

    "I have a disbelief in no gods" makes perfect sense viewed as an elliptical sentence, and we all use elliptical sentences. An elliptical sentence is one with missing words. Some are easier to understand than others. For example, "What the f***!" is understood as meaning something like "What the f*** are you telling me?" or "What the f*** is this?" and we understand the meaning by filling in the missing words in our head based on context.

    Your elliptical sentence, "I have a disbelief in no gods" means "I have a disbelief (in the idea that there are) no gods." This can simplified to "I believe there are gods," removing the double negation along the way. All you did was construct a grammatically confusing and poorly constructed expression of belief in gods, even if you didn't realize that was what you were doing.

  • Gallup's Mirror

    The fact remains that there's a severe logical problem to say you've arrived  at a conclusion and then say "I don't believe that."

    How would this apply to a three-year-old who has no concept of God?

    Through his unawareness he neither believes in God nor has he arrived at any conclusion. That is soft atheism. 

    What if someone else arrives at a conclusion that you don't believe?

    Crackpot: God is real.
    Me: I don't believe that.

    Where is the severe logical problem?

    What if you haven't reached a conclusion regarding God at all?

    Crackpot: God is real.
    Me: I don't know if I believe you or not.

    The difference between hard atheism and soft atheism is a matter of how one arrives at the same conclusion so they are not semantically equivalent. Or in the case of soft atheism, the term may refer to the suspension or absense of any conclusion.

  • Unseen

    The fact remains that there's a severe logical problem to say you've arrived at a conclusion and then say "I don't believe that."

    How would this apply to a three-year-old who has no concept of God?

    Through his unawareness he neither believes in God nor has he arrived at any conclusion. That is soft atheism.

    What if someone else arrives at a conclusion that you don't believe?

    Crackpot: God is real.
    Me: I don't believe that.

    Where is the severe logical problem?

    What if you haven't reached a conclusion regarding God at all?

    Crackpot: God is real.
    Me: I don't know if I believe you or not.

    I'm puzzled you misunderstood me so drastically. The relevant case would be more like this:

    You: I've concluded that God doesn't exist.
    You Again: I don't believe that, though.
    Me: Why don't you believe your conclusion I find that rather hard to parse.

    The difference between hard atheism and soft atheism is a matter of how one arrives at the same conclusion so they are not semantically equivalent. Or in the case of soft atheism, the term may refer to the suspension or absense of any conclusion.

    I thought I knew what hard and soft atheism meant, and a little research bears me out. Here is how Wikipedia puts it:

    Positive atheism (also called strong atheism and hard atheism) is the form of atheism that asserts that no deities exist. Negative atheism (also called weak atheism and soft atheism) is any other type of atheism, wherein a person does not believe in the existence of any deities, but does not explicitly assert there to be none. (source)

    In other words, soft atheism is what I and others call atheist-agnosticism. We don't believe God exists, but we aren't closing our minds.

  • Strega

    @ Unseen - I deliberately gave the affirmation of a belief in gods using a double negative to present how I felt about your insistence that every belief can be equally demonstrated by a reverse non belief.  Do you really think that my grammar and comprehension are so flawed that I would accidentally affirm a religious inclination?  This one isn't a "devil's advocate" situation, Unseen, this is just negation and gainsaying.  I'd much rather argue with you on something more substantial than semantic distortion.

  • Unseen

    Well, Strega, your post didn't come with a footnote. I didn't take the sentence as an expression of your belief but rather as an example of some sort.

    Anyway, I've always wondered why something as crucial to understanding as semantics is so frequently used pejoratively.

  • Gallup's Mirror

    I'm not sure why so many atheists are insistent on this. The logic escapes me. Not believing God exists is a belief. Can one reach a conclusion and not believe it? The one seems to follow the other.

    I'm puzzled you misunderstood me so drastically.

    I didn't misunderstand you. I falsified your statement that not believing God exists is a belief. A conclusion of disbelief does not equate to a lack of belief where one has drawn no conclusions. They both involve 'not believing God exists' but they are not both beliefs.

    Anyway, I've always wondered why something as crucial to understanding as semantics is so frequently used pejoratively.

    Strega wasn't referring pejoratively to semantics. She was referring (quite eloquently) to the distastefulness of semantic distortion, negation, and gainsaying. I would add 'resistance' to that list.

    I appreciate that you play devil's advocate to stimulate a thorough discussion. But once you've uncovered a deeper understanding via that process why do you so often refuse to learn from it? Why not just say, hm I never thought of that, and save the trip to the argument clinic?

  • Unseen

    I'm not sure why so many atheists are insistent on this. The logic escapes me. Not believing God exists is a belief. Can one reach a conclusion and not believe it? The one seems to follow the other.

    I'm puzzled you misunderstood me so drastically.

    I didn't misunderstand you. I falsified your statement that not believing God exists is a belief. A conclusion of disbelief does not equate to a lack of belief where one has drawn no conclusions. They both involve 'not believing God exists' but they are not both beliefs.

    So you say you're noted for having a talent for clarity? Maybe if I have some time tomorrow afternoon I'll call a couple friends around maybe we can parse that paragraph. If you can't write something that could be understood by the stranger next to you at the bar, you're not that talented at clarity. Einstein was able to make his bizarre concepts understandable, if not believable. That should be a standard for all writing, though I grant higher academics tends to reward bloated and padded writing.

    As I said, every disbelief can grammatically be reformed to be a semantically equivalent belief. If I say I have concluded that my glasses are nowhere to be found, that doesn't result in a belief? Surely I must believe that I've lost my glasses. Likewise, if I've concluded (as I have) that God doesn't exist, it results in a belief that God doesn't exist. Simple as that. It's not an unfounded belief like religious belief, for it's based not on scripture but on an investigation, but a belief it is, nevertheless.

    Every conclusion drawn results in a belief, or why bother?

  • Gallup's Mirror

    Maybe if I have some time tomorrow afternoon I'll call a couple friends around maybe we can parse that paragraph.

    Right. Just dial 1-800-HOOKERS and let the parsing begin.

    You sincerely don't understand how lack of belief differs from disbelief? You with the self-professed advanced degree in philosophy? Really?

    I don't buy it, Unseen.

    Every conclusion drawn results in a belief, or why bother?

    One may lack belief without drawing a conclusion. Look at the preceding transcript and you'll see numerous examples which demonstrate this is true.

    It's not bizarre. It's not difficult to understand. It's just you, pretending to be obtuse and protesting my writing style, because you're too proud to admit you learned something.

  • Unseen

    You sincerely don't understand how lack of belief differs from disbelief? You with the self-professed advanced degree in philosophy? Really?

    I don't buy it, Unseen.

    Sure I understand it.

    Lack of belief is a wishy-washy position that doesn't qualify as atheism. Atheism is either an affirmative belief that there is no God or a disbelief based on the evidence, which means a belief that the evidence for God is simply not there. There's no such thing as a conclusion being drawn that doesn't result in a belief of some sort.

    Every conclusion drawn results in a belief, or why bother?

    One may lack belief without drawing a conclusion. Look at the preceding transcript and you'll see numerous examples which demonstrate this is true.

    People who lack belief are people who can't claim to be atheists. They simply are on the road to drawing a conclusion, and when they do they'll believe God exists or they'll believe he doesn't.

    It's not bizarre. It's not difficult to understand. It's just you, pretending to be obtuse and protesting my writing style, because you're too proud to admit you learned something.

    If I'd "learned something" I would have changed my mind.

  • Unseen

    (A)s a simple statement we can say that we believe there is no god but then it gives a religious person the argumentative space to create a false equivalency argument.

    As long as we point out that the difference between us is between a belief with some basis (ours, even if our belief is based on the lack of evidence, which also results in a belief) and a baseless leap of faith, we've refuted their argument. This is better than insisting on a position which is both counterintuitive, confusing, and false that believing in no god(s) is a position one maintains but does not believe. That's no way to win an argument.

    We will always feel like we lose the argument with people that don't, won't or can't use words in honest ways even though we are correct and they are not. I avoid the word just to give believers one less word trickery/word play option. I also will just make positive belief claims such as I usually trust in humans and science etc.

    It's got to be more effective to actually make them aware that there are grounded beliefs and baseless beliefs. But seriously, if someone has abandoned facts and logic from the get go, there's little hope of changing their minds anyway.

    I doubt most conversions to atheism happen as the result of an argumentative dialog. Those who become atheists will arrive at the conclusion on their own (as many of us have) without being pushed in that direction. I doubt if many of us here would claim to have switched to atheism because someone beat them in an argument.

    There is the unfortunate stereotype that atheists just believe in negatives and not positives. I like focusing on positive statements since it is a better way to persuade someone else than focusing on the negation of ideas or concepts.

    As long as you stress that our beliefs are not faith-held, but are the result of giving facts (or the absence of facts) due consideration, we'll be okay. We're not going to convert people who eschew logic anyway. In that regard, it may even be pointless to argue with them.

    If I'm speaking with a fellow atheist I can just use words how they are meant in the dictionary sense because they will hopefully and most likely not be a jerk that has an ulterior motive (or honestly believed in simulacrum) to use words dishonestly.

    Hence why I said earlier, that I avoid using the word belief with "believers" but have no problem using it with people of reason. These are just my thoughts on this matter. Take care.

    Denying that we atheists believe God doesn't exist is so counterintuitive and ridiculous (look at the sophistry required to support it) that they probably take it as a confirmation that we can only maintain our view by logically standing on our heads.