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.


Jim Gardner said...

@PiltdownSupermn asked for a definition of the word atheist. I would have posted the below reply here, but I am making it available on my blog instead because there is a post length limit on blogspot.com comments.


Andy Pierson said...

He believes he has a lack of belief. That's funny. A belief is, by its nature: a state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing...in this case: Self or himself. This person violates the Rule of Non-Contradiction. The very first premise any entry level college Philosophy class will teach. lol

Bob Sorensen said...

In addition, this "lack of belief" causes quite a bit of motivation. Has your lack of belief motivated you to take any kind of action?

Anonymous said...

atheist is a derogatory term. a slur, like heretic, heathen or infidel, used to identify non-believers, and in days of old, imprison, torture and kill them.

those who claim the term now do so to stand in unity to the oppression suffered by those before them. however there is no need for the word at all.

just as we have no word for those who do not believe in greek gods, so too is there no need for the word atheist. I think the term you're looking for, is realist.

Anonymous said...

"Atheist" is a term created by an atheist. Since it has negative connotations because the actions of atheists have made them a tiny, distasteful minority to the rest of the population, they seek to redefine it. "Daffy" Dawkins suggests the word "bright".

Notice that other terms that atheists use, such as "free thinker", "bright", "rationalist", "realist" and so forth are not only ridiculously self-flattering, but loaded terms to slam Christians: "I am a 'free thinker' because I am better than you, a mere 'believer' or 'follower of Jesus'".

Your suggestion of "realist" fails because I am a realist, and that is why I am a Bible-believing Christian.

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