There's a fundamental disconnect between atheists and the word "atheist". Part of this is because there isn't complete agreement on what the word means.

  • Lack of belief in God
  • Lack of belief in God's existence

Lack of belief in Godcould simply mean a choice not to believe in God because he is cruel or undesirable for some reason -- but does not specifically address the question of God's existence.

Lack of belief in God's existenceis more specific but still leaves the door open for interpretation because the phrase "lack of belief" is ambiguous. It might be a matter of degree or preponderance of evidence and not an absolute statement of disbelief. A more definitive position would leave no doubts:

  • Denial of God's existence

Denial of God's existenceleaves no wiggle-room for interpretation. It's a flat-out position that God does not exist.

It's been my experience that most long-time atheists do not deny God's existence and adopt a more scientific stance which is willing to consider any argument or evidence that might change their minds. They don't want to make claims they can't back up. They understand the need for rational integrity. Just as the unqualified claim of God's existence is an article of faith, so is the unqualified claim of God's nonexistence. There's no evidence either way. An atheist can claim that there is no evidence for God or the supernatural (and never has been) and that there's no compelling reason to believe there ever will be. But there is a possibility -- however vanishingly small -- that there could be. A creator God is not an impossible proposition given what we know thus far. Existence . . . whether it's God's, the universe's or ours -- is an ineffable mystery; the greatest mystery of all. Certainty is an illusion and a claim that science is careful to avoid. Our understanding of the universe has undergone multiple paradigm shifts and will experience more in the future.

Whether you're absolutely certain that God exists or does not exist, you're pretending to know facts you have no access to.

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Comment by Georgie Kiely on April 8, 2012 at 3:59pm

I completely agree with your post and that is why I consider myself an agnostic atheist.  I am an atheist because the known evidence makes it very unlikely that a god, particularly a personal and caring one, exists.  Yet I claim agnostic due to the fact that I am not able to know or claim with 100.00% certainty that a god of some sort does not exists.  I believe that the majority of atheist would fall into this agnostic atheist camp.

Comment by Ed on April 8, 2012 at 11:45pm

First of all, your argument is presented in the singular -god. I believe the correct definition of atheism is a lack of belief in any supernatural beings (ie gods, angels, etc).

My interpretation of "lack of belief" is one that is totally absent of the belief characteristic. Therefore there is no matter of degree and is absolute in nature. 

Many theists like to imply that our lack of belief is an active ongoing process of denial. This is a false assertion. I do not deny gods exist but I have no compelling evidence to think otherwise. While it might be foolish to make the statement "Gods do not exist." I think the preponderance of evidence supports that claim. The only thing I am absolutely certain about is that I will eventually die.   :^ (

Comment by Reg The Fronkey Farmer on April 9, 2012 at 7:33pm

Could it be stated that Atheism, rather than being an “ambiguous” lack of belief is actually a position of Disbelief. I hold a positive belief in the non-existence of gods rather than the negative lack of belief in the existence of gods. Maybe a better term to consider would be an “absence of belief” rather than a “lack of belief”.

Ok, it may be word play to a point and I may not be describing what I mean properly but it may be an easier viewpoint to justify as that is what a theist asks us for. I do not deny that gods may exist. There is no evidence to suggest there are any gods so I positive affirm there are none until I get evidence to suggest otherwise.

The word “lack” makes it sound like something is missing. However I have no sense of a loss. My “absence” of belief is not a void that needs to be filled. Denying god exists of course means having to prove a negative. I would need to justify it if I asserted it. The theist however is left with the onus of proof when he or she makes the claim that a god does exist. Whenever I have successfully challenged the arguments they call evidence they always play the faith card. This makes their faith fundamentally dishonest and to me their belief is unjustified.

Comment by Ed on April 10, 2012 at 12:00pm

@ Reg

Faith will never fill the shoes of the compelling, extraordinary evidence of a scientific nature that an atheist rightfully requires and demands. It is an insurmountable hurdle as faith is a mental state of mind and not observable or measurable. An impasse at that point exists.

Comment by Atheist Exile on April 12, 2012 at 4:10am

“Emotionally I am an atheist. I don't have the evidence to prove that God doesn't exist, but I so strongly suspect he doesn't that I don't want to waste my time.” ~Isaac Asimov

Comment by Atheist Exile on April 12, 2012 at 4:13am

“As a philosopher, if I were speaking to a purely philosophic audience I should say that I ought to describe myself as an Agnostic, because I do not think that there is a conclusive argument by which one can prove that there is not a God. On the other hand, if I am to convey the right impression to the ordinary man in the street I think that I ought to say that I am an Atheist, because, when I say that I cannot prove that there is not a God, I ought to add equally that I cannot prove that there are not the Homeric gods.” ~Bertrand Russell

Comment by Atheist Exile on April 12, 2012 at 4:14am

That last one sums up my stated position the best. Good old Bert. :-)


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