Is Atheism Inherently Agnostic?

Fed up with the “preconceived ideas” evolved from “theistic influences”, the folks over at American Atheists (Atheists.org) set out to set the record straight on what exactly Atheism is.

In a brief article entitled “What is Atheism” Atheism is defined like so: “Atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; it is a lack of belief in gods.

So according this this definition, a person who claims to be an atheist is simply someone who lacks a belief in gods. Like a missing block in a brick building, the belief is simply not there and no belief has filled the void.

But do beliefs work that way? Can a switch be neither on nor off? Can one both lack belief and disbelief? That just doesn’t seem logical.

It begs the question, how does an atheist respond If asked directly, “Do you believe in God?”

If my interpretation of the definition is correct, the answer would have to be something like this…

I lack a both belief and disbelief in god.

That sounds familiar. Where have I seen that before? Oh yeah…

Agnostic – “a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God.

So it would seem that if Atheism is not disbelief, but a lack of belief, it is nothing more than agnosticism.

Advertisements

18 thoughts on “Is Atheism Inherently Agnostic?

  1. I understand your position. It’s just that there are so many different interpretations of the word “god” that it’s more important to find out what the person asking the question actually means when they say it. The link I sent you explains more what I mean by that. If you’re going to ask someone if they believe in “God”, both parties need to be on the same page or the conversation is pointless.

  2. How can the atheist discuss God If discussing God requires a consensual belief in what is meant by God and any belief in what God is, even for the sake of argument, undermines the state of lacking belief and disbelief?

    Consider the following definition of God.

    God is precisely and exactly that which the atheist lacks belief and disbelief in.

    Even for conversation sake, the atheist could not agree to that definition of God without jeopardizing the state of lacking unbelief, even though they define themselves on the very premise.

    This definition of atheism seems to be looking untenable. It cannot be defended. It cannot even be discussed or pondered for that matter.

  3. They don’t have to agree with or believe in it to discuss it. Just like Aristotle said, “It is the mark of an educated man to be able to entertain an idea without accepting it”. But you can’t just ask someone if they believe in “God” when it can mean so many different things. The word God is used a lot to describe what we all DON’T know- like where all of this came from. There are many theories about where the universe came from, but that doesn’t point to just one universal meaning of “God”. Sorry to be nit-picky. Just wanted to give you a little challenge. 🙂

  4. The argument seems to come down to this.
    Atheist: Define God.
    Theist: OK. God is a tree.
    Atheist: I don’t lack a belief in a tree so a tree can’t be God because I lack a belief in God.
    Theist: OK. God is the creator of everything?
    Atheist: Well, I lack belief in a creator so yes, that definition for God would be acceptable if not for the fact that I’m an atheist and as such what I lack a belief in cannot be God.

  5. That would be silly. 🙂 It’s not that they don’t believe for the sake of disagreeing with your definition. Its just to understand what you are asking. For example, someone might not believe in a personal God – one who hears their thoughts and answers their prayers. But they might believe in a higher power that fueled the Big Bang and is not hanging around watching us and listening to our daily woes. Those are two totally different variations of belief. But each could be discussed as “God” by different people.

  6. I don’t disagree with what you just said at all. Yes people define God in different ways. But we’re discussing the atheist not differences among theists. The “they” you refer to are people who define themselves as atheists. Can atheists believe in a God? No. That includes the one they define themselves as having no belief in.

  7. “It is the mark of an educated man to be able to entertain an idea without accepting it”

    I suppose it gets more complicated than this when the idea you’re entertaining involves acceptance.

    What you’re telling me is that an atheist by definition lacks acceptance in the assertion that God exists but can entertain the idea of acceptance in the assertion that God exists. How can that be?

    I can’t get around the problem in my mind that entertaining acceptance would be impossible if you lacked acceptance. It really seems to be an illogical argument. Entertaining acceptance is to inject acceptance even if just for the sake of conversation. Once acceptance is present it cannot also be lacking. So the atheist fails his own test for atheism by merely entertaining a belief in the existence of any God.

    Furthermore, if an atheist can at a whim inject acceptance in God for the sake of conversation, then atheism must be less of a case where something is lacking (a void) but more of a case where something is set aside which can be retrieved. A hole cannot fill itself. A void of acceptance cannot generate acceptance on demand, even if only for the moment it’s needed to entertain the idea of acceptance.

  8. You previously mentioned a definition of god as “whatever an atheist doesn’t believe in”.

    That definition is absurd.

    If that were true, then leprechauns are also god. So are pixies, fairies, ghosts, monsters, Harry Potter, Satan, gremlins, and trolls. ALL gods.

    The concepts of gods can widely be defined in our language as powerful supreme beings that people contribute creation to and have power to alter the lives of humans. Atheists accept a naturalistic perspective of reality and reject an idea of supreme beings.

    And it’s worth noting that your OP was right in the sense that atheism and agnosticism are almost the exact same thing. The problem lies in varying definitions out on the interwebs…most people think atheists claim there is no God, which is not the case.

    I was really just throwing something in there to give you a little food for thought…not really looking to get into semantics. 😊

  9. Remember the definition…
    “Atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; it is a lack of belief in gods.”

    What I said was…
    “God is precisely and exactly that which the atheist lacks belief and disbelief in.”
    not…
    “god is whatever an atheist doesn’t believe in”.

    The former is correct according to the definition of atheism. The latter is not.
    God is certainly not whatever an atheist doesn’t believe. God is what they lack disbelief in (and belief). So anything the atheist admits to not believing in cannot be God by their own definition of what atheism means.

    Notice atheists didn’t define themselves as having a lack of belief and disbelief in trolls.

    Do you believe in trolls?
    Would your answer be “I lack a both belief and disbelief in Trolls”?

    Do you believe in Pixies?
    Would you answer, “But you can’t just ask someone if they believe in “Pixies” when it can mean so many different things.” “If you’re going to ask someone if they believe in “Pixes”, both parties need to be on the same page or the conversation is pointless”

    Or would you just say, No. I don’t believe in Trolls. No, I don’t believe in Pixies.

    Obviously you view God differently than any of these creatures you’ve mentioned. You understand that there is a difference. You know these things are not God.

    Imagine two lists.
    One list is beliefs and the other is disbeliefs.
    If the atheist listed everything he/she believes, nowhere on that list would be god.
    Likewise, god would not be found on the list of disbeliefs.

    You’ve, in so many words, admitted that you don’t believe in pixies, fairies, ghosts, monsters, Harry Potter, Satan, gremlins, and trolls. So on your lists we would find each of these. You obviously don’t lack belief and disbelief in any of these items. So none of them can be God if you agree with the Atheists.org definition.

  10. Wrong. I can say that I don’t believe in trolls without positively claiming that they don’t exist. Then I would have to be able to back up my claim that there are no trolls anywhere and that would obviously be a huge waste of time to attempt. Belief and knowledge are two separate things. I can say I don’t believe in god, but I could be wrong (because guess what, no one actually knows for sure that he exists). Atheism is not a positive claim that no god exists. This is a good explanation of the difference between atheism and agnosticism: http://atheism.about.com/od/aboutagnosticism/a/atheism.htm . Hope that helps.

  11. You said, “I can say I don’t believe in god, but I could be wrong”

    I agree with you.

    But all I’ve been pointing out is that in making such a statement – you’re not in agreement with the definition anymore.

    “Atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; ”

    According to this definition if you express a disbelief in God then you can’t be an atheist. How ridiculous. Right?

    You’ve expressed a disbelief in God. That is why your are an atheist.
    An atheist is a person who does not believe God exists.

  12. I can say I don’t believe God exists and at the same time acknowledge that there is a possibility that I could be wrong. That would make me an agnostic atheist. One part has to do with belief, one part has to do with knowledge. Two totally separate things.

    Agnostic is a category of knowledge, not belief, and is only properly defined as having even the slightest doubt as to the existence of God. In other words, it is the admission that knowledge of God is unattainable.

    If you don’t have any doubt at all, then you are claiming knowledge of God. If you claim knowledge of God, then you must be able to prove the existence of God.

    At this point, God’s existence cannot be proven.

    Therefore, doubt is the only reasonable position to hold.

  13. I see what you’re saying – if atheism isn’t a disbelief in god, then what is? That’s interesting. What does it make you if you claim that no god exists? The answer: a GNOSTIC atheist. (not to be confused with AGNOSTIC). 🙂

  14. Can you doubt that god exist and not hold some belief on the matter? Really think it through. Doubt is opinion. Opinion on any assertion is a belief. You have to agree.

    I don’t see any difference between these two statements:
    I doubt God exists.
    I don’t believe God exists.

    I agree, they are very different then saying:
    God does not exist.

    But the third idea is not relevant here, simply because the definition clearly states that if you “have a disbelief in gods or deny gods” you are not an atheist. It’s silly. I know.

    If an atheist is not someone who does not believe in God, then what is it to deny god’s Existence?

    So again I ask, Can you doubt that God exist and not hold some belief on the matter? It’s important to figure out because, again, the definition that atheist came up with themselves says that if you believe God does not exist, your not an atheist. It’s completely absurd. Right?

    “If you don’t have any doubt at all, then you are claiming knowledge of God.”
    NO! You’re claiming to KNOW that you BELIEVE God exists.

    “If you claim knowledge of God, then you must be able to prove the existence of God.”
    All your claiming is certainty that you BELIEVE God exists. You don’t have to prove you believe something to anyone.

  15. Again, you keep mentioning God as if there is only one God and everyone is on the same page. Consider this:

    George H. Smith – ATHEISM: The Case Against God

    1. – The Meaning of “God”

    Knowing what one is talking about is of inestimable value in any dialogue, so the theist, before he sets out to explain why we should believe in god, must first explain what he means by the word “god.” What is the theist attempting to establish the existence of? What is the nature of god? How are we to identify him (or it)? At least some of the attributes of this supposed creature must be known before anything can be considered relevant to establishing his existence. As one theist puts it, “With no description or definition to work from, we will literally fail to know what we are talking about.”30 For example, consider the following dialogue:

    Mr. Jones: “An unie exists.”
    Mr. White: “Prove it.”
    Mr. Jones: “It has rained for three consecutive days—that is my proof.”

    If this exchange is less than satisfactory, much of the blame rests with Mr. White: his demand for proof is premature. Mr. Jones has not specified what an “unie” is; until and unless he does so, “unie” is nothing but a meaningless sound, and Mr. Jones is uttering nonsense. Without some description of an “unie,” the alleged proof for its existence is incoherent.

    When confronted with the claim that a god exists, the person who immediately demands proof commits the same error as does Mr. White. His first response should be, “What is it for which you are claiming existence?” The theist must present an intelligible description of god. Until he does so, “god” makes no more sense than “unie”; both are cognitively empty, and any attempt at proof is logically absurd. Nothing can qualify as evidence for the existence of a god unless we have some idea of what we are searching for. Even if it is demanded that the existence of god be accepted on faith, we still must know what it is that we are required to have faith in.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s