Sunday, May 16, 2010


This is an important definition because the term brings forward a lot of misconceptions about the discussion between atheists and theists.

Atheism-1 a.Disbelief in the existence of a god.

the inability or refusal to believe or to accept something as true.

So the inability to believe in a god.

Lack of ability to partake in belief.

Lack of belief.

All of these would be true.

And before we go on, here is the etymology of the word.

Atheism- from the greek A=without and theos=god and ism= "doctrine of", or philosophical system.

So the literal etymology of the word atheism would be "Without the doctrine of god" Or without belief in god.

This is important to recognize because when atheists talk about religion, they often put the burden of proof on the people making the claim (theists). IF the word atheism is misunderstood to mean a positive belief that there is no god, then the burden for that proof then shifts to us as well, for making that claim.

Claims must be put forward with evidence, or they are in danger of being dismissed as baseless, and rightly so.

So, in order to avoid this misunderstanding, and the diversion of good conversation to meaningless arguments, we need to firmly establish definitions.

The first of which is our initial position.


This is where we get to say who WE are, and what WE think.

Atheism is merely the rejection of the theist claim.

There is no doctrine, no belief, no dogma, and there are no preconceived notions.

There is only a lack of belief. We have yet to be convinced by the theist claim.

That is not to say that SOME of us DO have a positive belief (or at least approaching 100%) that there is no god, but that is in addition to our atheism. There are many atheists who do not make that claim to knowledge, and that is important to note. (Buddhists, and Jainists for example)
Those atheists who go further and promote positive belief in the non-existence of a god are merely extrapolating belief from lack of evidence. This too is reasonable, but again, it is not necessary as an atheist.

All that is required to be an atheist is to lack positive belief.

The importance of this definition is to establish in whose court the burden of proof lies.

Is it in the theists corner? The people making the claim?

Or in the atheists corner, the people who are responding to that claim?

Clearly the people making a claim are the ones who are beholden to provide reason and evidence for their claim otherwise we can just make up anything that sounds nice to us and expect it to be taken seriously.

So in order to avoid this problem, I send a message out to everyone who is involved in the discussion.

We atheists are not making a claim. We, by definition, are only lacking in belief and conviction for YOUR claim.

If you espouse a positive belief in a god, then you are a theist.

I can hear the comments now, "What is an agnostic then?" or "I am neither theist nor atheist, I am agnostic".

This is not true. You belong to either one group or the other.
Non stamp collectors or stamp collectors.
You can't create a third group called "not sure whether or not I am a stamp collector" as that would still mean that you are still a "non stamp collector" (for now)

Agnosticism refers to the ability to know (from gnōstikós, meaning pertaining to knowledge). You can be an agnostic theist (a theist who believes, but doesn't think that you can ever prove it), just as you can be a gnostic atheist (a person who doesn't believe, and thinks that someday we can know for sure that there is no god).

Lets not get too complex and confusing though.

Here is a simple way to put it:

If you say anything other than "I am sure that there is a god", if you self identify as part of any group which doesn't posit positive belief, and if your answer to the question "do you believe in God" is anything but "yes", then you lack positive belief.

And guess what that means?

You are an atheist.


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