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Oct. 20th, 2008 04:57 pm (UTC)
*sigh* Alex and I had this argument recently as well. I consider myself an agnostic, anyway. Which to me basically is just "I don't care and don't want to waste my time talking about it." I feel that atheists that try to force me to have an opinion on the subject are no better than evangelists.
Oct. 20th, 2008 05:07 pm (UTC)
I don't feel like atheists force people to have an opinion. Most people do have an opinion and just haven't thought enough about it to verbalize it. You don't have to claim knowledge to have an opinion. My favorite example is asking people if they believe in Thor, and when they say "no," then say why don't you consider yourself an Agthorist then? And an Agzeusist?
Oct. 20th, 2008 08:11 pm (UTC)
There is a difference between the absence of belief and the belief in absence. These are different ideas and should be treated as such.

The definition my dictionary gives for atheism is "the theory or belief that God does not exist." This is belief in absence of God and does not include the absence of belief. Using this definition, atheism is not the logical complement of theism.

The comic strip uses atheism to mean the absence of belief in God, which includes both the absence of a belief of any kind -- what I would call agnosticism -- and the belief that there is no god -- what I would call atheism. Using this definition of atheism, it is indeed the logical complement of theism. However, I think this is a non-standard definition, so the point is being made by taking a word to mean something different than it usually does.
Oct. 20th, 2008 08:16 pm (UTC)
Your dictionary begs the question. It defines atheism as the belief that what does not exist?

Expanded: Unless your point of reference presupposes a definition for "God," atheism can only be logically defined as the lack of belief in any gods. Otherwise, you must define the specific notion of god of which an atheist positively denies the existence.

There are relatively few atheists who actively deny the existence of "God," because there are relatively few believers who would put forth a falsifiable definition.

Edited at 2008-10-20 08:24 pm (UTC)
Oct. 20th, 2008 08:28 pm (UTC)
Why can atheism not be defined as the belief that no gods exist? This is the logical extension of the definition I gave above, and it requires no more specific a notion of "gods" than does the definition you provided.
Oct. 20th, 2008 08:33 pm (UTC)
That is a logical fallacy. If I say I deny ALL gods, then if someone begins calling a rock their god, since it can be shown to exist, I am not an atheist with respect to it. Atheism, to be a meaningful word, must be defined simply by a lack of a belief.

There must be either a) a definition of a specific god, or b) a definition of a generic "gods" category to which you can fit all the gods man has ever posited. Without one of these two notions clearly defined, what meaning does "atheist" have?
Oct. 20th, 2008 09:34 pm (UTC)
You make a good point. However, I don't think your definition stands up to this test either. If atheism is a lack in belief in gods, and somebody calls a rock his god, you still can't claim to be atheistic with respect to the rock. You can claim neither to believe that there is no rock nor to have no belief regarding the rock. You believe that the rock exists; you are a rock theist.

However, you do not believe that the rock is a god, or more probably, you believe that the rock is not a god. In either case, a definition of "god" that excludes rocks is necessary.
Oct. 20th, 2008 09:45 pm (UTC)
True. I'm gonna cut off that line of thinking and instead fall back on etymology.

The prefix "a-" is Greek and can mean any of the following: "no", "absence of", "without", "lack of", "not" The word "theism" is defined pretty universally as "the doctrine or belief in the existence of a god or gods"

Therefore, atheism should be defined as one of the following:

"no (belief in the existence of a god or gods)"
"absence of (belief in the existence of a god or gods)"
"without (belief in the existence of a god or gods)"
"lack of (belief in the existence of a god or gods)"
"not (belief in the existence of a god or gods)"

None of these definitions make a case for atheism being a "disbelief system" (if you will).

If you take the word at face value, you have "a-" (without) "theos" (god) and "-ism" (system of beliefs). Since theism existed (as a word) before atheism, the grouping should be (1,(2,3)) rather than ((1,2)(3)) (a-theism rather than atheos-ism).
Oct. 20th, 2008 10:54 pm (UTC)
I agree with your etymological analysis, so much so that I think I prefer your definition. If you agree that the absence of belief and the belief of absence are philosophically distinct, then I don't think we have anything to argue but semantics.

My problem with the comic strip is that it implies a philosophical weakness in what could be only a semantic difference.
Oct. 21st, 2008 12:30 am (UTC)
Agreed, but I still find it funny.
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