July 23, 2011

Voulez-vous Définir "l'athéisme", S'il Vous Plait

Will you kindly define "atheism" or "atheist"?

I have used the most commonly accepted standard definitions of "atheist" and been hammered. In fact, when I posted the video clip of William Lane Craig quoting the same standard definition, I was told that he was wrong and playing "semantic games". Well, how is he playing semantic games, and how am I wrong, when using the standard definition? (Well, "The denial of the existence of God" is stronger than the definition that I have used, "Someone who believes that there is no God". Pretty similar, though.) The standard definition fits word meaning and historical usage.

"Nonononono! Idiot! You don't know what an atheist is! You don't know what atheism means!"

Retract your claws, Claude. Enlighten me.

"Atheism is the absence of belief  in gods!"

Uh...I see. The definition has been rewritten. Unfortunately, the revisionist memo has not reached all atheists, because there is still some confusion. In addition to people calling talk shows and defining themselves as "agnostic atheists" (a term that has baffled other atheists with whom I have corresponded, as well as myself), and used by some apologists. Well, some atheists seem confused:
"Disbelief in God", like the standard definition says. Got it, Marc.

"Lack of belief". Got it, Marc.

Actually, I think that atheists have taken too much philosophical shaming at the hands of apologist-philosophers, so they changed the definition.

At any rate, since some people have hair triggers, I often prefer to have people tell me what they mean by "atheist" if they are going to engage in dialogue on the subject. It's helpful if they don't want to play semantic games.

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