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Just What Does The Word Atheist Mean


romansh
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I guess that's why I can't properly call myself an atheist.

 

Paul

Here you propagate the myth that atheists as a class are not open minded.

 

I call myself an agnostic ... more because it is the way I handle "knowledge" rather than any beliefs I may or may not hold.

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Paul

Here you propagate the myth that atheists as a class are not open minded.

 

I call myself an agnostic ... more because it is the way I handle "knowledge" rather than any beliefs I may or may not hold.

 

Perhaps I do. But if one is prepared to state categorically that there is and can be no God, is that not being closed-minded about the matter? Not to trivalise the matter, I don't believe in pink unicorns either, but I don't think I can say with 100% accuracy that pink unicorns don't exist. I can live my life as though they don't, I can say with reasonably certainty that they don't, but by vgirtue of the fact that I cannot prove that they don't surely an eency weency part of my mind has to remain open that they do exist (not that I do anything with that part though).

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So like me, Dawkins is 6.9 out of 7 sure that there is no God - not 100% sure. Notably he answers that he is an agnostic (even though others refer to him as an atheist). So to me it would seem he has not closed his mind to the minute possibility of God, however he is not calling himself an atheist either. Would not an atheist be 7 out of 7 sure there is no God and thus have a closed mind to God potential?

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So like me, Dawkins is 6.9 out of 7 sure that there is no God - not 100% sure. Notably he answers that he is an agnostic (even though others refer to him as an atheist). So to me it would seem he has not closed his mind to the minute possibility of God, however he is not calling himself an atheist either. Would not an atheist be 7 out of 7 sure there is no God and thus have a closed mind to God potential?

 

An atheist on the Dawkins' Scale? I think that scale is simplistic, but to answer your question it is possibly 4 and upwards. 7 being a strong atheist and the other numbers being a weak atheist.

 

Remember Paul ... that I think you don't choose your beliefs in the sense today I will be a strong atheist and at 4 pm tomorrow I will be an agnostic theist. (somebody who understands they don't have convincing evidence but believes anyway). Our beliefs creep up on us overtime. Children may be an exception, they tend to believe much of what their parents tell them.

Edited by romansh
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Remember Paul ... that I think you don't choose your beliefs in the sense today I will be a strong atheist and at 4 pm tomorrow I will be an agnostic theist. (somebody who understands they don't have convincing evidence but believes anyway). Our beliefs creep up on us overtime. Children may be an exception, they tend to believe much of what their parents tell them.

 

I couldn't agree more. But back to whether atheists are open-minded or not about God, would you say that an atheist is open to the concept of God? That they don't rule out 'God'?

 

Sure, their mind may change tomorrow, but if today they are calling themselves an atheist, I think they are saying that they do not consider themselves open-minded about God. Of course, if new beliefs creep up on them and they do consider God a possibility, then they are no longer an atheist. Labels - aren't they grand! :)

Edited by PaulS
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I couldn't agree more. But back to whether atheists are open-minded or not about God, would you say that an atheist is open to the concept of God? That they don't rule out 'God'?

 

Sure, their mind may change tomorrow, but if today they are calling themselves an atheist, I think they are saying that they do not consider themselves open-minded about God. Of course, if new beliefs creep up on them and they do consider God a possibility, then they are no longer an atheist. Labels - aren't they grand! :)

 

I think most atheists are open minded.

 

I think we need not to confound what is quite often spirited attacks on dogmatic religious beliefs. What do we mean by God? A deist god; kick started everything and then "buggered off"? A panentheistic god, that is in everything and is manipulating the materialist world? Or a more personal god that gives us "gifts" ... to keep this vaguely on topic. Whereas in pantheism where everything is god ... and here belief meets atheism. I have a sneaking respect for pantheism ... where both worlds meet and the debate is purely semantic and emotional.

 

By saying you think atheists are not open minded about god, I question whether you are open minded about atheists? :rolleyes:

 

Think of Bertrand Russell, a poster boy for atheism ... he said something like before a philosophical audience he would call himself an agnostic and before the general public he would call himself an atheist to give the right impression.

 

I suspect we live our lives atheistically Paul, and call ourselves agnostics.

Edited by romansh
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I'm probably arguing a point that doesn't really need any arguing. It's just that most 'atheist' organisations, websites etc that I have seen, well they tend to state that they have shut he door on any concept of 'God'. To me that is being closed minded to the concept of God.

 

Take the Atheist Foundation of Australia for instance, which amongst other things state "No personality or mind can exist without the process of living matter to sustain it. We have only one life – here and now. All that remains after a person dies is the memory of their life and deeds in the minds of those who live."

 

That to me seems a very definitive statement which doesn't seem open minded at all. How can anyone be conclusive of what happens after death? Atheist, or otherwise for that matter.

 

So how can an atheist shut the door on God yet be open minded toward there being God? You can't have both.

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Paul,

 

i think the problem is in the the fact that some people use an old and narrow definition of atheism. Check this site out. AMERICAN ATHEISTS

 

"Atheism is usually defined incorrectly as a belief system. Atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; it is a lack of belief in gods. Older dictionaries define atheism as "a belief that there is no God." Some dictionaries even go so far as to define Atheism as "wickedness," "sinfulness," and other derogatory adjectives. Clearly, theistic influence taints dictionaries. People cannot trust these dictionaries to define atheism."

 

The foundation in Austrailia defines it like this... "The Foundation defines atheism as "the acceptance that there is no credible scientific or factually reliable evidence for the existence of a god, gods, or the supernatural." It rejects belief in God, the supernatural and superstition in general. " (from WIKI)

 

I suppose if science comes up with some credible evidence they ( Australian Atheists) would change their mind?

 

Joseph

 

PS Personally i think the word Agnostic " a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God) makes for less argument.

Edited by JosephM
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Yes Joseph, that is how I understand atheism to be defined in dictionaries, but that definition doesn't fit how I see atheist defining themselves usually. IMO, there is more to atheism than just saying "I don't believe in God", which is what an agnostic is I guess. So why don't atheists call themselves agnostics instead? Wouldn't that position allow them to say they don't believe in God and see no scientific proof of such etc etc, whilst still leaving room for the open-mindedness about God existing?

 

This discussion started with me suggesting an agnostic view left room for God even though I don't believe currently, whereas atheism seems to go that step further and say there is no God, which really I can't see how they can say that.

 

Anyway, it's no bother to me and I appreciate the discussion. I hope no atheists were harmed during this discussion ???

Edited by PaulS
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This discussion started with me suggesting an agnostic view left room for God even though I don't believe currently, whereas atheism seems to go that step further and say there is no God, which really I can't see how they can say that.

 

 

The majority of atheists I come in contact with will categorically deny Abrahamic and perhaps other traditional Gods. Probably as do you and I. I find they are more circumspect around less well defined gods, for example panentheism and deism.

 

I like the concept of ignosticism (as well as agnosticism).

 

We "should" risk being accused of being semantic when it comes to God and gods in general. And perhaps with other terms like spiritual and transcendent.

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PS Personally i think the word Agnostic " a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God) makes for less argument.

 

I like the term agnostic when it is used to describe how we handle knowledge ... not just with respect to God and gods, but with respect to much wider aspect of our lives.

 

I think agnosticism is a far more "powerful" concept than dealing with our beliefs.

For me it throws into our lives a significant amount of skepticism and possibly a realization we make choices despite of our uncertainty. Consequently we might take care with our beliefs and how we impose them on others.

 

Is this a gift?

Edited by romansh
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I like the term agnostic when it is used to describe how we handle knowledge ... not just with respect to God and gods, but with respect to much wider aspect of our lives.

 

I think agnosticism is a far more "powerful" concept than dealing with our beliefs.

For me it throws into our lives a significant amount of skepticism and possibly a realization we make choices despite of our uncertainty. Consequently we might take care with our beliefs and how we impose them on others.

 

Is this a gift?

Yes, more agnosticism and less certainty around lots of beliefs (political, emotional, cultural, etc) can't be a bad thing.

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Yes, more agnosticism and less certainty around lots of beliefs (political, emotional, cultural, etc) can't be a bad thing.

 

But I think it has to come with a recognition we do make choices (consciously or otherwise). You and I have ended up on the atheistic side of the debate. Others on the theistic. Some of us are more ardent when we vocalize our positions than others.

 

Militant moderation is OK for awhile. Acceptance of the things we might find abhorrent is a bit more tricky.

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I like the term agnostic when it is used to describe how we handle knowledge ... not just with respect to God and gods, but with respect to much wider aspect of our lives.

 

I think agnosticism is a far more "powerful" concept than dealing with our beliefs.

For me it throws into our lives a significant amount of skepticism and possibly a realization we make choices despite of our uncertainty. Consequently we might take care with our beliefs and how we impose them on others.

 

Is this a gift?

I resonate with this. I think agnosticism in the broader sense is the only honest way of handling information. I often cannot claim to know something for certain. Phrases I commonly use:

 

I've been told that...

One source whom I trust says that...

In my experience...

I cannot be certain, but I believe that...

I heard on NPR that...

I feel that...

 

So, we have stuff that people tell us who may actually know, stuff given from a trustworthy source, stuff which I have experienced, stuff that I believe as a matter of faith, stuff that I believe because of how I feel.

 

When I use these phrases in a conversation, I leave open the possibility for an honest, meaningful dialogue.

 

As far as God goes, not only am I open to the possibility, I've actively engaged in a relationship with a God of my understanding. But does that mean that I know for certain? That depends on the question. Do I know that my relationship with God has had a positive effect on my life? Yes, I'm certain. Do I know that God is real? In the scope of my life, he definitely is. Can I say for certain that God is objectively real? No, I cannot. I can know what I've experienced, but I cannot say that what I've experienced is proof of the existence of God. BUT, I am open to the possibility that someone can know for certain that God exists or does not. I strongly believe that something exists, and if that is the case, I have a very limited understanding of what that truly is. I'm a Christian, so I fall in line with what many Christians believe about God, but I also believe that God exists outside of what Christians believe him to be.

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Thanks Fatherman

 

I found this quote on the Buddhism page at Religious Tolerance

  • Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it.
  • Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many.
  • Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books.
  • Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders.
  • Do not believe in traditions simply because they have been handed down for many generations.
  • But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.

I think this quote, ostensibly by Buddha not that it matters by who (we are all Buddha?), epitomizes the agnostic spirit. And there is much that I disagree with when it comes to Buddhism (at least the little I know of it).

 

Incidentally the site is a useful to get a quick overview of a whole bunch of world views.

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Rom,

 

As with most major religions, there are to be found some good original foundation teachings and one may find much agreement between them once you separate it all from the multitude of chaff masking those teachings. :) Thanks for the post above.

 

Joseph

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Throwing my hat in the ring....

 

I am an atheist. I do not agree with any form of theism. God does not exist any more than the infinite or zero exists, but they are useful and real. They are helpful in so much as they help us understand existence without really being apart of it. I put it to you another way, any God that needs to be believed in is nothing more than an idol.

 

Do you believe in god is a meaningless question to me. The words we are left with to describe the human condition are tainted with past meanings that distort the reality. Terms like Grace and the Kingdom are the best I can do and only with a lot of explanation. Life is a Gift and it doesn't matter if it is by design or just random happenstance. How you receive this Gift is the only question that matters.

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Jim,

 

Going back to what kicked this off then - would you say you are open-minded to there being a God/s or some type of supernatural entity that we don't yet understand, or are you closed-minded so to speak believing that the concept of God is 'impossible'. Not a loaded question, just asking as you are self-identifying as an atheist and this goes to the core of what started this discussion.

 

Cheers

Paul

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Throwing my hat in the ring....

 

I am an atheist. I do not agree with any form of theism. God does not exist any more than the infinite or zero exists, but they are useful and real. They are helpful in so much as they help us understand existence without really being apart of it. I put it to you another way, any God that needs to be believed in is nothing more than an idol.

 

Do you believe in god is a meaningless question to me. The words we are left with to describe the human condition are tainted with past meanings that distort the reality. Terms like Grace and the Kingdom are the best I can do and only with a lot of explanation. Life is a Gift and it doesn't matter if it is by design or just random happenstance. How you receive this Gift is the only question that matters.

 

I get your point Jim. I would say I think taking religious texts literally is far from "prudent". Now, I know of no way of examining the existence of say deistic or panentheistic concepts of god. For me the arguments for are generally hand waving. The only sensible argument against them is that they are unnecessary hypotheses. Pantheism as Dawkins points out is sexed-up atheism, at least in my understanding.

 

While I am skeptical of infinity, I am less so of zero. Any balanced equation depends on the existence of zero. Some physicists argue if we add up all the energy in this universe it comes to zero. Nihilism might be a valid position.

 

Saying God is meaningless ... I agree up to a point. Though a literalist has a relatively well defined god and based on the claimed properties of that God, I think we can discount such interpretations.

Edited by romansh
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... open-minded to there being a God/s or some type of supernatural entity that we don't yet understand ...

 

There is much that I don't understand Paul. This does not make it supernatural. For example are quantum phenomena supernatural because likely you and I don't understand them?

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There is much that I don't understand Paul. This does not make it supernatural. For example are quantum phenomena supernatural because likely you and I don't understand them?

 

Definitely Rom, I agree with you. But in this instance I am using the term 'supernatural' to mean just that, something outside what we might otherwise regard as natural or touchable. I wasn't trying to implicate things that we simply to do not understand yet.

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Definitely Rom, I agree with you. But in this instance I am using the term 'supernatural' to mean just that, something outside what we might otherwise regard as natural or touchable. I wasn't trying to implicate things that we simply to do not understand yet.

 

Hmmn

If something is "untouchable" in effect it does not respond to cause and effect. If that is the case, then it may well exist, but then it may as well not exist, because it is irrelevant.

 

Here I am using "touch" in its broadest sense.

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