Posted: Dec 17, 2011 7:11 am
by jlowder
Moonwatcher wrote:Moonwatcher wrote:
8. The people who primarily use atheism as other than a lack of belief in "God" are primarily people who are trying to put believing in something without evidence on the same level as not believing it without evidence.

JLowder wrote:
I don't understand what you mean.

I was saying that it is primarily religious people who try to define atheism as a belief rather than a lack of one from a desire to imply that not believing something minus evidence is somehow the same thing as believing things minus empirical evidence and hence imply that atheism is a religion.

Of course, there are "angry atheists" in the sense that we are all human beings with histories and issues, many of them with religion in our pasts and upbringings. But that is an aside from the core issue that, for most atheists here, it is a matter of not accepting things that have no supporting evidence. Any other issues stem from that.

Back when I was the moderator of the USENET newsgroup alt.atheism.moderated, I used to debate the definition of atheism and I used to defend the atheism as the lack of belief position. I'm persuaded, however, by Ted Drangethat by default we should define our terms in a way which matches ordinary usage. Ordinary usage of the word "atheism" is that it means the belief that God does not exist. I see no benefit whatsoever to the proposal that nontheists should spend their limited time on trying to convince people both that (a) atheism is rational and (b) that they should use the word atheism in a different way, as opposed to merely focusing on (a).

Among professional philosophers, including self-identified atheist philosophers, the majority viewpoint is that atheism is the belief that there is no God and agnosticism is the lack of belief in God's existence and God's nonexistence. When professional philosophers want an umbrella term to group together people who believe God does not exist with the people who merely lack belief, they use the term "nontheist." So I'm not sure I agree with you that the majority of people who define atheism as the belief that there is no God are "religious people."

For the record, I am fully aware of how condescending it can come across when person A says, "I'm an X," and person B says, "No, you're not. You're a Y." In other words, who am I to tell people how they should self-identify? In response, I would point out the following: (1) I'm responding to Moonwatcher's comment; (2) I am not making a normative or ethical issue out of this, i.e., I'm not saying nontheists have an ethical requirement to use the word atheist consistently with ordinary usage; and (3) I am suggesting as a matter of strategy and "resource management" that there are much better uses of our time than an anal-retentive defense of etymological purism, i.e., the "but the greek roots of atheism, a + theism, mean literally without theism" defense. The meaning of words can and do change over time. If the meaning of "atheism" has changed from its Greek roots, then so be it.

(preparing to duck for the huge amount of flames I expect to get for this post, LOL)