Hillbilly Atheist presentation on Atheism

Rational Response Squad member "The Hillbilly Atheist" recently had the chance to give a presentation about atheism at his college, deep in the Buy-Bull Belt. Check out his website here: http://www.hillbillyatheist.com/


Anonymous said...

Sounds like (at the end) you had a rather chilly crowd. Good job with some solid points. While I live more in the North I do have many family members living down in the deep south and that bible belt country can be down right scary when dealing with the blind conviction of its believers.

Kevin said...

A minor complaint I have with two of his arguments (and I've even seen the same flawed arguments used by Richard Dawkins on the Colbert report)

1. Atheism is not a "default." Atheism is a positive assertion of a position regarding the belief in the existence of god(s). By default, people have no position at all. One does not hold positions on subjects of which one has no knowledge or in which one has no interest. This argument is useless anyway, as it does nothing to really validate atheism.

2. "Atheists to all but one god." One cannot be an atheist and theist simultaneously. As far as I can tell, all of this began with a misuse of some initial quote (sadly I forget who said it so I can't currently give proper credit). The quote in question went along the lines of "when you understand why you disbelieve in all of those other gods, you will realize why I go further and disbelieve yours." It's very possible I've mangled the quote a bit, myself. But my point, which I didn't quite explicate in my rambling, is that this is just silly wordplay without the same depth of its source.

There are plenty of reasons to be an atheist. There's no need to make such silly and fruitless arguments for atheism when you have so many good arguments available.

I'll go finish the rest of the video now. I wasn't thinking and didn't open the comment window in a separate tab.

Anonymous said...


Isn't this simply arguing semantics? We are all born ignorant of any knowledge of gods. In fact we are born without even knowing what a god may or may not be. Atheism is to be without belief in theism so if you are ignorant of theism then you are without belief in it when you are born and when you grow old enough to form thoughts and ideas.

I think it perfectly reasonable to make the claim that we are all born without belief in theism - i.e. born as athiest. It would be the 'default' position. You are born without belief. Atheism is a lack of belief.

I must also disagree with your second comment because believers practice denial of other gods daily. It may be a blind disbelief brought about because of their devotion to their own religion or it may even be because they have found something that convinced them against other religions, but regardless of the reasons they disbelieve for many of the same reasons that I disbelieve ALL religions. This truly and honestly is as simple as saying "we both disbelief many religion, I simply disbelieve in one more than you"

We do not have specific terms such as 'Achristian', Ajew, or 'Amuslim' to define specific disbelief against specific religions because people tend to bond to one religion and deny all others in favor of the chosen religion. This means there is a simple "believe" or "don't believe" state in which "believe" could refer to any other religion. In this way they are showing the EXACT SAME characteristics of an atheist.

They show doubt about the existance of other gods, they doubt the miracles that were produced by other gods, they even deny the histories, sacred items, or powers of these others gods. In effect they are no different than any run of the mill athiest when it comes to other gods.

The whole useage of that argument is to point out the inconsistancy of their beleifs and reveal the lack of rational in their thought process.

If you were simply pointing out that common useage of that statement was different than the original quote, I can accept that, but if you are trying to say that using that comparison is invalid somehow ... I have to disagree.

Kevin said...

But atheism implies knowledge of the concept of "god." It's a distinct position regarding the question that says "I do not believe god(s) exist." One cannot make that statement without having a concept of god upon which to base the idea. You can't have a position of disbelief in a concept of which you have no knowledge. You don't have answers to questions you don't know have been asked. The whole argument stinks of trying to make atheism look more "valuable" and right because it's a "natural" belief.

Perhaps the following link can explain it better, although I can't say I agree with everything he says: http://www.evilbible.com/Definition_of_Atheism_1.htm

Regarding my point #2, it's back to the definition of "atheism." Atheism isn't the denial of some set of god(s), it's the denial of all gods. If you call yourself an atheist, you do not believe in any gods, period. It's improper and simply pointless wordplay to say people are "atheists" to some gods but not all. The value of the original statement was to get people to think about why they specifically choose their belief and deny the beliefs of others, not make it some kind of math problem. "We're just like you minus one god!" It sucks the full "power" out of what was originally being communicated.

Like I said, there are many good arguments for atheism. We don't need silly wordplay and emotional appeals trying to "soften the blow" or some shit.

Anyway, it's not the most important discussion in the world. It just bugs me when I see it because it's just so damn silly and valueless.

Jim Arvo said...

Kevin said "'We're just like you minus one god!' It sucks the full 'power' out of what was originally being communicated."

I disagree completely. What that argument is intended to do is to force the theist (presumably a Christian) to look at why he/she does not believe in other gods. If they grant themselves the right to "not believe" in those other gods without being dogmatic, evil, narrow-minded, uneducated, etc., then they must argue why they do not grant the atheist the same right with respect to their god. The believer does not believe in Zeus, presumably because there is nothing at all compelling to suggest that he exists, and NOT because Zeus has been disproved. The atheist asserts nothing more about Yahweh (or any other god or goddess). Yahweh is simply tossed into the same bucket that the Christian has already filled with other gods. The idea is to force the Christian to make a discerning argument rather than simply casting aspersions toward the atheist. (But, then, we all know how well that works, don't we?)

Micah Cowan said...

I think there's some confusion about what is meant by the term, "default position." It does not refer to the position we have from birth (for some of us, we were ingrained with belief from such an early age, that the distinction is meaningless). It refers to the position opposite from the one upon which lies the burden of proof.

The burden of proof always lies upon the one who would add "knowledge" to what is already established to be true. The ultimate "default position" is to be in utter ignorance, so claiming atheism (as defined in this video) as a default position does nothing to validate (or invalidate) it: it is only to say that, contrary to all-too-common expectations of theists, it is not our responsibility to provide convincing evidence that no god exists (which is good, considering such an argument is impossible, as the existence of a deity is of course an unfalsifiable claim, as is the existence of the tooth fairy). Rather, it is their responsibility to convince us that this otherwise unestablished piece of information is true beyond reasonable doubt.

This is the foundation of logic and debate; if this truth cannot be established ("blind faith"), discussion ceases to be beneficial. (Believe it or not, not all Christians believe in the concept of blind faith; I was raised to always hold it in contempt.)

I don't personally hold to the definition of atheism in this video ("Lack of belief in a god"—as opposed to "The denial of the existence of any deity" [which, btw, is how Webster defines it]). I have been hearing this definition with increasing frequency, but it appears to be a rather recent trend. Looking it up in a few dictionaries, most seem to give it the latter meaning (one entry was somewhat ambiguous, and could probably be interpreted either way).

However, even if that's the definition you use, the distinction is small enough that I believe atheism would still be considered the "default position": whether you lack belief in UFOs, or actively disbelieve them, the debating position is the same: the burden of proof rests on the one attempting to establish the existence of UFOs (and, naturally, by this I mean alien visitors: nobody really tries to argue over whether some flying objects sometimes lack identification).

Regarding Kevin's complaint against saying "you're atheist against all the other gods": Kevin is of course technically correct; it's a misapplication of the word "atheist". Be that as it may, the core argument, as reworded by "just rick", remains a valid one.

Dave8 said...

Kevin: "But atheism implies knowledge of the concept of "god."

A "concept" is the product of a thought process.

Concept: "An idea of something formed by mentally combining all its characteristics or particulars; a construct."

An atheist isn't an atheist, because they don't understand or have knowledge of the "thought" process... they are an Atheist, because they refuse to accept the theist's concept as an absolute "noun", that is universally present in the external environment.

To be more concise; Atheism is a statement to the individual theist who proposes their "god" concept as a universal "fact".

Now, a Theist can call someone an Atheist, because that person doesn't accept their concept(s) as universal facts... or a person can label themselves an Atheist, because they honestly haven't been able to "create" a god by conceptualization efforts, that becomes "manifest" in the external environment...

Kevin: ""We're just like you minus one god!" It sucks the full "power" out of what was originally being communicated."

How about... We're just like you, we understand that people conceptualize gods in their imaginative process; however, you (Christian) seem to have an issue with letting go of your own fabrications that you hold as "absolute" universal truth.

To be more direct; Christians, you are selfish, hypocritical, and bigoted by denying the truth that your conceptualization is "no better" or "more valuable" than anyone else’s' conceptualized version of a god(s)...

Kevin: "This argument is useless anyway, as it does nothing to really validate atheism."

First of all, beliefs don't need to be validated... one could hold an irrational belief, and call it individually valid...

To the "individual", there need only be "one" person to validate "atheism"... the individual.

So, you see... one can individually "claim" to be an Atheist because they understand that "all" concepts are individual mental creations anyway... and can't be communicated equally to others...

And, not to get deep into universal argument, but... there is a difference between conceptualized ideas and relational ideas... An Atheist can easily assert that "all" concepts/conceptualized forms of "god" or "gods" are universally unknowable (at this time) based on the manner in which they are mentally produced in a unique individuals' mind.

The only reservation the Atheist need face, is the one where a religionist attempts to make a statement based on a relationship between their intrinsic mental faculty and their extrinsic environment. However, the Christian (most Christian sects) has assisted the Atheist in this effort, by suggesting that humanity can "never" have a "relational" link to their "god", in "any" form, as that would remove the divine and place them into the sinful material world.

So... Atheists have it pretty easy, the only toes they have to worry about, are the toes of the religious who suggest that their god or gods can be found in Nature, and in a knowable form - to some extent...

And, to end... you come across, as one who suggests that Atheists "must" argue and make a valid case...

Although, I affiliate with Atheism, in various ways, I don't give anyone the control or power... especially, those who are of the religious persuasion, the ability to "define me"... my life and mind are my own... It was during my Christian years, I was assimilated and told who I was, what to believe, how to act, how to think, etc...

Those days have been long gone... I owe no Christian or anyone of a religious persuasion an "explanation", valid or not, for my belief... The "power" of my argument, resides in "me", not somewhere else.

Dave8 said...

I agree with both Jim and Micah on their positions, as they describe the possible relational positions of the atheist to the theist during debate or general discourse.

Kevin said...

Hmm, I shall attempt to refine some stuff.

Regarding the "atheists to all but one god" bit, I must admit my feelings toward its use are somewhat skewed because I've seen it horribly abused before. I felt in this presentation he could have emphasized the "think about why you deny these gods" portion a bit more, but that's a personal preference.

Now, on defining "atheism." To state it (over)simplified, the definition of atheism as "anyone lacking a belief in gods" is wrong. It's practically useless. Redefining it (and yes, it is redefining it) so that it includes babies, animals, and anything else incapable of holding a belief is, quite simply, silly. As I said, it does nothing to actually "validate" atheism.

There's a little concern with my use of the term "validate," so I'll do a little explication. First, I'm not using any official philosophy lingo. Chances are, I'm probably using "validate" improperly, a somewhat humorous irony since I'm making a point about the term "atheism" being used improperly.

By validate, I simply mean "to show how the position is reasonable." Now, as a matter of "proving" it, no, atheism does not have to "prove" that gods don't exist. However, let's recall that it's a "positive" term, in other words, it doesn't simply negate theism, but rather states a belief that happens to oppose theism (see the link I provided earlier regarding the etymology and how it's not a-the-ism, but rather athe-ism). Now, one cannot prove a universal negative (bolded to avoid potential confusion), so there's not really any conclusively proving that no gods exist. However, one can assert, from the lack of evidence for any god, that it is extremely unlikely any number of gods exist. Furthermore, one doesn't have to remain agnostic to the point of not dismissing current theistic religions. As this website has well shown, Christianity can be shown false, or specifically, logically inconsistent to the point of absurdity. Other religions find themselves in the same boat of having made falsifiable and/or logically inconsistent claims.

Now, claiming that because one cannot conclusively show that no gods exist, gods must exist is a ridiculous claim. Positive claims require positive proof, as the video said. Atheism should not be a dogmatic denial of the existence of gods, but rather the best fit theory for the evidence (or lack thereof) available. I imagine most, if not all, atheists (especially the skeptical kind) would become theists if sufficient positive evidence existed. I would. However, considering what we know of the world, it'd take a pretty good bit of evidence to "prove" the existence of any gods.

Regarding atheism implying the concept of "god," it's a matter of the definition. You can't say "I don't believe gods exist" without "god" referring to something of which you disbelieve its existence. I suppose this could be a "relational concept" or something. It's sort of similar to using a word in it's own definition.

So, in a way, you do sort of have to argue for atheism. But it's not actually having to "prove" anything, but rather having to show a reason to believe it. Lack of available evidence alone isn't sufficient to disprove something (such is the argument from ignorance fallacy). The lack of evidence is coupled with other things that show why one should not believe in such a thing without evidence.

Though to be honest, I'm somewhat in Sam Harris's camp (or at least I think it was Sam Harris) in disliking the idea that we actually need a word regarding the disbelief of an unproven hypothesis (and disproved in most incarnations). We don't, after all, require a word for people who don't believe phlogiston is responsible for fire. However, society has forced the need for such terminology of disbelief in this area. Perhaps someday humanity will outgrow its belief in mythologies and other irrational beliefs.

I must give credit to this guy for standing up for atheism and science. As a fellow citizen of the bible-belt, I can appreciate the kind of opposition he probably encounters.

webmdave said...


The early Christians were called atheists because they refused to worship the gods that everyone else worshiped.

In fact, many believers in the old gods thought that the atheists (Christians) were going to bring down the wrath of the gods upon their society.

As far as those who prayed to Mt. Olympus are concerned, Christians are ATHEISTS!

Anonymous said...

Kevin :Redefining it (and yes, it is redefining it) so that it includes babies, animals, and anything else incapable of holding a belief is, quite simply, silly. As I said, it does nothing to actually "validate" atheism.

I don't think it is redefining it so much as making a logical assumption. Of course a baby isn't going to be able to make the logical conclusions to make comparisons or decisions of belief. The idea is to point out that they have a blank slate devoid of any religious dogma. An athiesitic position is one that does not have or share a belief. You can split the hairs of that definition as fine as you like, but it still means that you lack a belief, regardless of how that lack is obtained/maintained. An example is a bucket lacking water. Atheism doesn't have to mean you 'reject' belief, simply that you don't have it. An empty bucket doesn't reject water, it simply doesnt have it. As atheism lacks belief, so does a baby or an animal. They do not have to consciously deny that belief, simply not have it. An atheist is not required to consciously declare "I deny all gods"!

What would you deem a lost tribe of people in some forgotten corner of the world who held no religion and had never had contact with any other religion leaving them ignorant of all examples of todays religions? Am I wrong to think they would be considered an atheistic society? Atheistic by a default lack of knowledge.

The idea of saying "we are all born athiests" is valid. I think the argument strongly supports atheism by pointing out that naturally no one contains knowledge of god at birth. It is only when other people begin indoctrinating you into their religion that anyone first hears about gods. It then becomes blaringly obvious how human the whole process is. There is nothing divine about it.

When I was on my way to shrugging off all of my religious beliefs I was personally stunned when the revelation of "born athiest" was first introduced to me. It was one of those "oh wow" moments when mental gears all clicked together and the realization that the idea of god was not divine in nature. That is why I feel so strongly that saying "we are all born atheists" is such a valid and important statement and understanding for people.

As for the other idea of everyone being atheists just that "I believe in one god less than you". Technically I can see your point, but again, the spirit of that comment is to get the believer to realize the incongruity of their belief and their own hypocritical stance. This is why the "one god less than you" definer is added on. We are showing that if you suspend the idea of their god for a moment, then their disbelief of gods is similar to any atheist. By getting them to examine more closely WHY they disbelieve those other religions then it may help to open their eyes against the hypocrisy of their own beliefs.

Is a believer an atheist? Of course not since they are theistic. But set aside their specific belief above the jumble of all other religions and examine their stance once again. This helps to validate an atheistic argument that they have the tools to disprove their own beliefs as they actively use them on other belief systems.

Many people have an incorrect idea of what atheism is. This is simply one idea that can be used to show believers that not only are we not satan spawned anti-bible toting demon worshippers, but that we share many of the same conclusions on other religions as the believer does themselves.

Obviously these arguments aren't going to make a person give up their beliefs on the spot. But they serve as a way to get them to simply think about their own religion beyond blindly believing it is above examination.

Kevin said...

This isn't a very valuable discussion, so it's kind of weird to me that it's still dragging out this long, though I'm mostly responsible for keeping it going. It seems though that people are missing the point (or at least neglecting to mention why they do not accept it).

Atheism is not the "lack of belief in a god." Atheism and godlessness are not synonymous. Atheism is the positive rejection of the existence of gods. This is its modern definition. The idea of it referring to anyone who lacks a belief in a god (or even the ability to hold such a belief) is a very new thing that, as far as I or anyone I know can tell, is a very small minority position. It's certainly not the dictionary definition of the word.

Babies cannot be atheists. Rabbits cannot be atheists. Rocks cannot be atheists. Tribes of people that have never heard of the concept of a god cannot be atheists. Only people that actively reject the existence of gods are atheists. All the others simply lack a belief in gods. And in two of the examples I provided, applying the label "atheist" is ridiculous. It's doubtful any animal species short of the most advanced hominids can even conceive of the question of existence for anything, and anyone thinking inanimate objects can hold a thought, much less a belief, is quite silly indeed. "Lacking a belief in god" is an asinine definition for "atheism."

This of course, does not negate the fact that no person is born with a belief in any god(s). However, that does not make them automatically atheists. You cannot give an answer to a question when you don't even know the question has been asked.

Jim Arvo said...

Kevin: "Atheism is not the 'lack of belief in a god.'"

Kevin, that is YOUR opinion. It is not mine. It is not the opinion of most people I know who call themselves atheists. If you want to know what someone believes, I think the best policy is to just ask them, and not impose a definition or a label on them. People these days have corrupted the original meaning of the word "agnostic" as well--now it's synonymous with "not knowing". The whole terminology thing is a mess. I'm tired of fighting the terminology battle. I've chose the label "atheist" for myself, and I'll gladly explain to anybody who is interested exactly what I mean by that, and why I think it's a perfectly fine definition. It sure would be nice if we could get ourselves out of this labeling quagmire. But that's NOT going to happen by simply pronouncing what a word ought to mean.

In my opinion, the problem is deeper than confusion over the terms "atheist" and "agnostic". Although few debates ensue over the word "belief", it is far from clear what "disbelief" means, or even to some extent what it means to "lack belief". The fuzziness of these words is normally not an issue; but it confounds discussions like this one, and ultimately they lead nowhere.

boomSLANG said...

I agree with Jim Arvo--this whole "semantics" discussion is becoming convoluted.

"Babies cannot be atheists". Who cARES!?!?

"Rabbits cannot be atheists". Who said they are?

Then this:

Atheism is the positive rejection of the existence of gods.

Whaaa? Um, there wouldn't even be a need for the term "Atheist", if it weren't for people who INSIST that "gods" do exist. THAT is the "positive" claim. To call a lack of belief in something an "assertion", or to imply that someone is "guilty by association", is a stretch.

Try this---I don't believe that this hair splitting is not pointless. Haha..that is not unfunny, is it not? lol!

I am an Agnostic Atheist. Questions? Ask.

Anonymous said...

Proof of a universal negative:

There exists NO even prime number greater than "2".


Anonymous said...

Again, I think you are playing the semantics game Kevin. You've chosen a definition of atheism that you are comfortable with and are attempting to begrudge everyone else's their definition. When I do a definition search on the word I find everything from a conscious and active effort of non belief to a definition as simple as non belief through ignorance.

I think Jim really makes a good point about the termonology issue. People are still developing their understanding of the word. In the end it is universally held as simply not believing in a god or gods. That non belief is from a lack of belief. The reasons for the lack can be many, but the single most defining thing of atheism is that you lack the belief.

Kevin said : Atheism and godlessness are not synonymous.

Origin: 1580–90; < Gk áthe(os) godless - Random House Unabridged Dictionary 2006

French athéisme, from athée, atheist, from Greek atheos, godless : a-, without; see a-1 + theos, god; see dhēs- in Indo-European roots. - The American Heritage Dictionary (Fourth Edition)

1. The doctrine or belief that there is no God [ant: theism]
2. A lack of belief in the existence of God or gods
-WordNet 2.1 2005 Princeton

You said that atheism is not synonymous with 'godlessness' yet I keep finding that same description over and over as well as in the word origin. Also, the exact words "A lack of belief in the existance of God or gods" does indeed appear in a definition.

I accept your point that there are definitions that describe atheism as more of an act of disbelief but I don't think this should be construed as the final say on the definition. The definition of Atheism is still very much a confusing issue. Many people have an entirely false understanding of what it is and are taught that it is something entirely different. Is it no wonder that so many different dictionaries have sometimes conflicting definitions?

Kevin, I'm always open to a better understanding, and the whole reason I involved myself in this discussion is that you offered comments contrary to what I thought I knew. I don't want you to think that I'm simply being argumentative with you, I'm just supplying you with the reasons why I think you are incorrect with your statement that the definition of atheism is being used incorrectly. As far as I can tell both cases that you stated are fair and acceptable and do not "cheat" the idea of atheism. With so much confusion I think it best to accept the spirit of the definition and all that it implies.

Anonymous said...

Boomslang, your post came on while I was writing mine else I'd have saved myself the effort. You nailed it on the head - wouldn't even need the definition if not for religion.

Dave8 said...

Kevin, I had a few moments to make a final reply.

Theism: "2. belief in the existence of a god or gods (opposed to atheism)."

Atheism: "2. disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings."

Within the definition of theism or atheism, there are "two" options... 1-to believe or "disbelieve" in "one" god, -or- 2-to believe or disbelieve in "multiple" gods.

For a theist to "deny" the existence of one god (Zeus), they "fit" the definition of Atheism according to option 1. Thus, there is no "redefining" the term "atheism".

In this context, the theist who denies the existence of "Zeus", is no "less" atheistic than one who denies a specific theistic god, only.

The theist who denies multiple gods, is no less atheistic than an atheist who denies multiple gods as well... They are "both" atheists, its just a matter of discerning the number of gods conceptually excluded/denied existence.

This is based on the dictionary terms... Now, when people start embellishing the noun ideals of theism and atheism, with such adjectives as; hard, soft, neutral, positive, negative, etc., do the terms start taking on entirely new meanings...

Someone, who asserts that positive atheism is a great form of the noun (ideal) atheism, has created a term by which there is no "equal" theistic contrast... what would that contrast be... a positive theist, etc? It is the additional information assigned to the ideals that make them more confusing to many... There is enough confusion in just the definitions of the two ideals, by using a noun like "god"... I would likely accept god as a noun ideal, by which to begin discourse with a Christian, but a Christian, would likely deny that frame of reference and speak as if their god is an absolute noun object.

Again, ideals are reference points... thus, "everyone" can be measured against them, its what the function of an ideal is used for... Someone could be referenced on an agnostic scale to some degree and also to an atheist scale to some degree... its how references work.

Regarding, the dislike for the use of atheist as applied to an infant, rabbit, carrot, etc...

We are born into the noun object, homo sapien, per definition... why would it be absurd to suggest that an infant is born into the noun object atheist, per definition... We don't "choose" to be considered a homo sapien; we are tagged that way...

Further, if that doesn't seem attractive... would it be more palatable, to suggest that atheism/theism as noun ideals, can be used as references by which to measure an infant...

The difference in measuring a carrot based on the noun ideal of atheism/theism, is that a carrot doesn't hold the potential to declare/become a noun object atheist/theist.

Point is, noun ideals (atheism/theism) are reference points used to measure the relative position of a noun object (atheist/theist) to the ideal limits... therefore, the ideal nouns atheism/theism become useless when applied to a carrot, because a carrot will never have the potential to "become", either a noun object atheist/theist. There is no deviation for a carrot; it is just as much a theist as it is an atheist, squarely in the center of the polarized spectrum, between the ideal limit of theism and atheism. Thus, the "need" to measure such an object, becomes meaningless... there will never be a deviation, in a carrot or a rabbits' life, unfortunate, but true...

An infant "does" have the opportunity and potential to "become" either an atheist/theist, thus, they are candidates to be measured according to noun ideals... Many Christians claim that god & soul are innate in every human being... thus, it is their claim that inspires some to place the infant/child on the noun ideal spectrum, and measure them accordingly.

Thus, in the measuring endeavor, it appears an infant starts out on a scale hard left on "atheism", as they do in fact, hold no attributes that present them as holding a belief in a god or gods, nor do they present the knowledge of a "god" in any form... Now, a child may not be considered an "atheist" at this point, based on a child's self-acceptance of the terms, but the child, just as being labeled a homo sapien, can "technically" be called an atheist, by those who adhere to a strict sense of the atheist definition(s). We are what we are, and we are what we become. Take care.

Kevin said...

Interesting responses. I probably came off a bit too forceful, but there are times I feel I'm not adequately communicating what I'm trying to say so I keep repeating it.

Regarding atheism and godlessness, I was thinking synonymous in a manner of they aren't the exactly same thing. In a Venn diagram, godless would be the big circle, and atheism a slightly smaller circle within.

Apparently I'm a little behind in the language or something, and social factors have moved atheism around to "lack of belief in god(s)." It just seems weird to me to require further words to make a demarcation between people who lack a belief without having actually considered the question of god(s)' existence and people who have considered the question and reject said existence. It seems atheism and nontheism would work well enough in that regard.

My complaint regarding number two isn't so much applying the term atheists to theists, but the way I've seen the point used some times that doesn't really point to spirit of "think of why you disbelieve these other gods." I reacted to its use even though it wasn't abused as such this instance. It would also seem I was incorrect regarding the matter of whether it could be applied to theists.

I wonder if anyone has read the article I linked earlier. It better expresses much of what I was trying to argue (albeit a bit more condescending perhaps than how I would express things).

Kevin said...

I should also explain that I was defining "godless" as simply being without a god, which very likely isn't the proper definition for it, and I shouldn't have used it as such.

Anyway, read the link, because I've done a shoddy job of trying to convey the ideas from memory.

Steven Bently said...

What is your point Kevin, are you trying to say that there is no such a thing as anyone being an atheist?

But it's ok to label a baby as a sinner and heathen infidel until one confesses Jesus as their savior, because everyone is born in sin, is that your point, Kevin?

By now, I do not think anyone here cares what your opinion of an atheist is.

Most of us here are a realists', what does that make you? You sound like a fundy idiot troll!

Get over yourself Kevin! Stick your labels up your rear end, will ya?

Kevin said...

Ehh, I have no clue why you're getting emotional over this. You appear to be imagining things that have never been said.

My point is simply that it's kind of silly to have such a broad definition that it could be applied to people that aren't even capable of understanding what it means.

A thought experiment: Imagine a baby was born with the ability to communicate to some degree, but only knows of things he/she has some experience with (mom, dad, hungry, etc.) Ask that child if he/she believes in a god. The answer would not be know, but "I don't know," because it doesn't understand the question. If anything, a newborn child would be an ignostic. After explaining the question to the child, then the child would be an atheist.

Atheist to theist: I know what you're talking about, and I disagree

Baby to theist: I don't know what you mean.

I don't understand why anyone would feel like this is an attack. Is it that important that people who can't even be involved are declared atheists just like those of us who openly deny the existence of any gods? Sure, babies don't believe in any gods when they're born. They don't believe in evolution either. Does that make them evolution deniers, or just people who haven't learned about evolution yet?

Anyway, it's really pointless to continue. I'm not doing this any justice. Click the following link and read. It does a much better job explaining. Clicky.

Jim Arvo said...

Kevin: "My point is simply that it's kind of silly to have such a broad definition that it could be applied to people that aren't even capable of understanding what it means."

No word means precisely what we want it to mean in every conceivable context. Take virtually any word, and there is a context in which its meaning is either unclear or useless. Take the word "deadweight". One meaning is the total mass of a ship, including all its cargo. If there is a baby on board a ship, it is included in the "deadweight". Isn't it silly to call a baby a deadweight? Well, yes, in a way. But that's not what the word is used for; it serves no purpose in distinguishing between living and non-living things, for example. But that does no mean we should sharpen the meaning of the word.

Similarly, it's not at all helpful to apply the word "atheist" to a baby, or a person in coma. It makes no useful distinction to say "there are no god-beliefs in that brain". While it may be true, it is of no consequence. The context in which the label is meaningful and useful is in the context of beliefs held by thinking and informed adults.

If potential misapplication of the word is so disturbing to you that you feel compelled to change the word, then you are in danger of lessening its utility within its intended context. For example, if you change the definition of atheist to mean someone who has ruled out the possibility of a god, or "denies" the possibility, etc., then you have just excluded a huge number of people who know the arguments for a god, and simply do not believe them. Of what use is it to rule them out? Why invent another term for them?

Now, my previous paragraph would seem to suggest an obvious compromise; why not define an atheist to be one who is aware of god-beliefs, understands what they entail and what believers assert, and simply does not share those beliefs (for whatever reason)? Would that not include everyone whom we intend to include, while excluding babies, rocks, and people in comas? Well, not exactly. For now the issue is whether the person is really aware of what a particular god-concept consists in; and, by the way, which god would that be, and according to whose theology? All of a sudden, we have made a seemingly simple concept into something that will be next-to-impossible to agree upon.

Bottom line: There is one and only ONE thing that all atheists share--they harbor no god-beliefs. Some go a step further and positively assert the non-existence of one or more deities. While atheists do happen to share this rather broad category with rocks and babies, the important part of the boundary, the portion that actually serves a purpose, is the part that separates thinking humans who knowingly profess a belief in one or more deities from those who do not. The rest of the dividing line is of no consequence whatsoever.

By the way, I'm quite familiar with the link you provided. I vehemently disagree with the author's position on that point. The "too broad" objection is nonsensical, in my opinion, as I have explained above. The "no reputable dictionary uses this" objection is flat-out false. And the "not accepted by the vast majority of people" objection is probably false as well. Therefore, I see no reasonable objection to the "lack of belief" definition.

That said, this is all MY opinion, and I don't expect everybody to adopt my definition. If it's important, I always ask for clarification rather than assume.

Anonymous said...

I'm familiar with the site you linked, but I still examined your specific reference and it does no better job at making your case than you did. While it tries to use some logical fallacies (ad Hominem appeal to authority, hasty generalization, poisoning of the well, etc) the argument it presents still hinges on ones own acceptance of the root or origin of atheism which is "atheos" meaning "godless". "Godless" simply means to be without god and is not specific in how one is without god. It may be through choice or ignorance. Is the next argument going to be which god? Seriously, this is complicating a simple issue.

Honestly I see nothing more here than someone having a pet peeve about what their idea of 'atheism' is and attempting to belittle anyone else for disagreeing with them on it.

boomSLANG said...

Kevin: My point is simply that it's kind of silly to have such a broad definition that it could be applied to people that(who) aren't even capable of understanding what it means.

Gad zooks!!!!!!! Who the f%ck cARES!?!?!?!? A "baby" can't comprehend one single word of the question, "DO YOU BELIEVE IN GOD".....so???.. whAT does it matter?

They can't understand "WOULD YOU LIKE A NIPPLE", either. They can't understand "HOW WAS YOUR DAY IN THE CRIB?", as well. So?..is "infant", then, "too broad of a definition" for them? Give me a break!

Initial comment by Kevin: A minor complaint I have with two of his[Hillbilly's] arguments (and I've even seen the same flawed arguments used by Richard Dawkins on the Colbert report)[bold added]

F%ckkkkk me!!! A "minor" complaint? Holy shit!...it looks more like a defcon 5, national emergency.

Look----who cares if one lacks belief in deities out of ignorance, or out of rejection? The bottom line is they DON'T HAVE a belief in deities. Good lord!

Oh, oops!..SORRY!..I said the WORD "Lord", that must mean I can't be an "Atheist". LMAO!

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