This is some thing I wish more people would realize.

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Comment by Unseen on January 24, 2013 at 11:51pm

@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.

Comment by Strega on January 25, 2013 at 12:19am

@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 :)

Comment by Freek on January 25, 2013 at 2:39am

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.

Comment by SteveInCO on January 25, 2013 at 10:23am

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.

Comment by Unseen on January 25, 2013 at 6:25pm


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."

Comment by Unseen on January 25, 2013 at 6:54pm


"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.

Comment by Unseen on January 25, 2013 at 8:42pm

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.

Comment by Strega on January 25, 2013 at 9:18pm

@ 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.

Comment by Unseen on January 25, 2013 at 10:29pm

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.

Comment by Unseen on January 26, 2013 at 9:43pm

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?


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