Atheism, Militancy and Tribalism

Religion and dogma can motivate violence in many ways. It can create a focus for a tribal identity that creates in-sympathies and out-aggressions; the Us/Them divide that can famously lead to dehumanising characterisations and violence. The other is the direct command from that dogma or religion to seek out violence against other people. The differences here are profound: whereas anything may precipitate tribalism, commands are identifying of that dogma.

Dogma can be anthing: nationalism and political ideologies to religions and beliefs. The political ideology of the Third Reich, for example, was more than just a case of tribalism; Nazism specifically commanded killing. No one seems to doubt it was more than just tribalism that lead to the Holocaust. Somehow, a specific and violent idea was sold to the masses. Patriotism and tribalism, no doubt, played a role, but it is clearly more than just that.

The Burmese Buddhist monks who are attacking and killing Muslims are not motivated by the dogma of there spiritual belief. That violence is tribally lead (although the conflict is fuelled by economic worries as well). And that doesn’t seem too complicated to cogitate on.

However, this distinction has been forgotten by people trying to score cheap political points after the triple homicide in Chapel Hill. The gunman, Craig Hicks, was an atheist. He shot three young Muslims. In the first moments it appeared to be over a parking dispute, and I’m not convinced that had nothing to do with it. Perhaps Hicks had precipitated a tribalism around his identity as an atheist that afforded him the ability to dehumanise Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha. That meant that something as minor as a parking dispute could escalate in his head to this level. Or perhaps he was just mentally ill. I have found no evidence of a psychiatric report yet. Or perhaps all of these are factors.

However, many commentators have taken to their blogs to intentionally forget the distinction between direct dogmatic commands and tribalism or mental illness. The argument is that this murder is somehow a symptom of modern atheism and the perception of Islamophobia. This seems to be a misunderstanding.

Modern atheism has no dogma, although atheists do often argue that religions are detrimental to progress. In recent times, Islam as been a specific target for that argument, no least because of the presence of Islam in terror attacks, the attempts to circumvent free speech and violence. Atheists, as well as Christians and other Muslims, have been critical of these actions. These actions are directly commanded in the Koran. Therefore, to address the issue of the action, people have been critical of the ideas in the Koran (and thus in Islam). This has been perceived as Islamophobia. Despite the presence of Christians and Muslims in the voice against the aggressive actions in the name of Islam, atheists seem to receive this label of Islamophobia disproportionately. But the point is that this voice is against a particular type of motivator to violence: directly from a teaching from dogma.

No such thing exists in atheism. Atheism doesn’t have a core, like dogmas do. We don’t have texts of Immams. We’re not ‘bad atheists‘ if we haven’t read The Selfish Gene or fail to adopt Sam Harris’ Moral Landscape. There is no sentence or paragraph that is defining of atheism that can lead to what Craig Hicks did. The same cannot be said for Christianity or Islam.

When people who identify as atheists claim that Hicks’ actions have nothing to do with atheism, they are correct. When a Muslim says that ISIS do not represent the actual texts of Islam, they are not. I have no doubt the only things that can lead the members of ISIS to actually obey their Koran are tribalism and mental illness, but they are still obeying the Koran, which provokes and fosters such tribalism.

[Edited 22/02/2015 to acknowledge that atheists are not the sole recipients of the slanderous “Islamophobia” label]


33 thoughts on “Atheism, Militancy and Tribalism”

  1. There is a difference between atheism and anti-theism. Atheism has many varieties, some of which would be unrecognizable to modern conceptions of atheism, so there is very little conceptual clarity in atheism, save the trite notion that it represents unbelief of some form or another. However anti-theism (an ideology Hicks endorsed) has a strictly precise doctrine that leaves little room for interpretation outside of practical considerations on how best to accomplish its aims.

    It seems fairly self-evident to me that where you have some collection of a class of men whose interests depend or are supposed to depend on specific propositions, there will naturally follow cruelties of one sort or another. This just seems to be a natural product of social systems of this sort. And I don’t get why proponents of NA (which is clearly an instantiation of anti-theism) think they are exempt from this sociological fact.

    1. What is the doctrine of anti-theism?
      How is it self-evident (or even necessarily true that “where you have some collection of a class of men whose interests depend or are supposed to depend on specific propositions, there will naturally follow cruelties”?

      1. Committed opposition to religion. Hitchens put it this way: “I’m not even an atheist so much as I am an antitheist; I not only maintain that all religions are versions of the same untruth, but I hold that the influence of churches, and the effect of religious belief, is positively harmful.” That’s the most basic doctrine I would think.

        I said “fairly self-evident,” (read as obvious) *to me*. Are you being deliberately obtuse? How could it possibly be necessarily true? It is induction. I am reasoning about future events based on past events.

        So to answer your second question: It’s not.

        1. Self-evident has a very specific meaning. You are using it wrong if you are using it synonymously with ‘obvious’. However, is see your induction and have but one question for you: are you confusing a descriptive with a dogma?

        2. Self-evident does have a semi-sort-of precise meaning. But it is not very specific by any stretch, as any familiarity with the last 2000 years of Western philosophy would tell you.

          And self-evident is synonymous with obvious. Just google synonyms of self-evident. Of course I even weakened my claim with a qualification so I don’t know what the relevance of your point is here.

          I don’t see the distinction you are driving at. What’s your question?

  2. First, disclaimer: I don’t really need or desire to attach any atheistic dogma to Hicks’ actions. I fully agree with you: There’s no atheistic dogma that says to go waste someone, just as there’s no atheistic dogma to stay anybody’s hand. Atheism roundly lacks either the poise or composure of dogma. However, I don’t know about the claim that atheism has no dogma. Appears as though it may (or in fairness may not) have strains of several, actually: Anti-Rationalism (in the proper sense of recourse to experience), Materialism, Nihilism, Naturalism, Evolutionism. Any will apply. Or, infamously, none. (A good reason, frankly, I’m not an atheist: It doesn’t really matter.) Furthermore, since a favorite past-time of Fundamentalists here in the State is actively dedicated to reinforcing in atheists the idea that they are either a) immoral or b) mere genetic agents, by their own presuppositions, for whom good and evil no longer matter, I have to seriously wonder (and here I do have to confess ignorance at how much he may or may not have been exposed to Fundamentalist Christian propaganda; though his location in N. C. does have to be factored in) if that reinforcement could have on some serious level produced a net negative affect/effect on inhibitions. Crazy theory; that’s all I can claim for it, to be honest, and correlation doesn’t (can’t) expressly imply causation. Even if…that’s still no atheist dogma. Who knows. Vain speculation.

    Although the last sentence here:

    Therefore, to address the issue of the action, people have been critical of the ideas in the Koran (and thus in Islam). This has been perceived as Islamophobia. Despite the presence of Christians and Muslims in the voice against the aggressive actions in the name of Islam, only atheists seem to receive this label of Islamophobia.

    is a marvelously nonsensical non-sequitur that ultimately says nothing. I understand the context of the point you’re trying to work from there, but it’s sweeping generalization is already demonstrably false:

    Chris Kyle was not atheist and has now been actively associated with (at least) a social meme of posthumous Islamophobia. So you’re wrong. Now the popularity of Kyle may outweigh his effigy, yes, but the claim “only atheists” has evaporated, unless “only” may not be permitted to mean “only” anymore. Furthermore, I wouldn’t feel comfortable (particularly because a family of Muslims live just outside my hallway and downstairs) ANYWHERE in the States being an Islamophobe. I highly doubt anybody would put up with me espousing Islamophobia without serious censure or reprimand or perhaps arrest, if I took it far enough. But that’s presumptuous of me.

    Lastly, this struck me as another (or maybe I just like the word non-sequitur today) non-sequitur:

    There is no sentence or paragraph that is defining of atheism that can lead to what Craig Hicks did. The same cannot be said for Christianity or Islam.

    or perhaps I find this flatly missing or concealing a plain truth: Christianity or Islam didn’t lead to what Craig Hicks did. It’s fine, i guess, if you want to rail at them out of context for being violent religions. (I don’t personally give a crap nor apologize to anyone that Christianity isn’t a peaceful religion: Because peaceful religions–whatever the hell they are, if they even exist at all–are for lemmings.) The inflation of rhetoric, of course, is perhaps important to be mindful in our modern era of domestic incidents and standoffs.

    Sad state of affairs, though. As a Christian all I can say is I would certainly find it kind of vapid of myself to deduce the intent of his actions along the lines of his atheism.

    From Hebdo to this, though, I pray this semi-developing phenomenon of Islam vs. Atheism doesn’t end in ultimate bloodbath.

    1. “Appears as though it [atheism] may (or in fairness may not) have strains of several [dogmas], actually: Anti-Rationalism (in the proper sense of recourse to experience), Materialism, Nihilism, Naturalism, Evolutionism”
      We may be disagreeing on the definition of rationalism here. Also, none of those are defining dogmas necessary to be an atheist. Atheists of 200 years ago didn’t have evolution to think of, yet there were atheists (like Epicurus). It doesn’t necessitate nihilism (even if my post about nihilism did get a lot of support). Materialism and naturalism are different; which is dogmatically held? I tend to think it goes exactly the other way round: atheism doesn’t entail ontological naturalism, methodological naturalism (a hugely successful epistemology) tends to entail atheism.

      I quite like the argument it is fundamentalism propaganda that might be a variable in Hicks’ action (even if it is a stretch).

      Your first quote of me isn’t a non-sequitur. A non-sequitur is when the conclusion doesn’t follow from the provided premises. The paragraph doesn’t give a conclusion. There is no syllogism. It cannot be a non sequitur. In terms of premises, that paragraph can be summarised as:
      (1) Christian, Muslims and atheists have been critical of the content of the Koran
      (2) Being critical of the content of the Koran is often perceived as Islamophobia
      (3a – concerving original sentiment) Only atheists get smeared with the accusation of Islamophobia
      (3b – sentiment updated in accord with references you cited) Atheists bear a disproportionate brunt of the accusation of Islamophobia
      (Conclusion) [Not given]
      If no conclusion is given, it cannot be a non-sequitur. I am happy for you to explain what you mean, though. It might help me understand your point.

      Although my mistake will be updated after this comment.

      As for Islamophobia: it is wrong, you are right. But perceiving the criticism of the ideas in the Koran as being the same as the discrimination against Muslims is dishonest. Only one of these is Islamophobia, the other is protected under free speech. I trust you’re intelligent enough for me to not need to clarify which is which (and I hope your neighbours are, too).

      I also didn’t accuse the content of the Bible or Koran as motivating Hicks. The post is about drawing the distinction between tribalism and dogma as motivators for violence. The second sentence you quote does that, and nothing else. Again, it is not a non-sequitur. I’m also not sure what you mean when you talk of the “inflation of rhetoric”. It’s certainly something I’m not engaging in.
      (And Jainism is a non-violent religion. You just referred to all the Jains as lemmings. Not even the teachings of Jainism, but the people themselves. No point, just saying…)

      “As a Christian all I can say is I would certainly find it kind of vapid of myself to deduce the intent of his actions along the lines of his atheism.
      From Hebdo to this, though, I pray this semi-developing phenomenon of Islam vs. Atheism doesn’t end in ultimate bloodbath.”

      I request, humbly, that you make up your mind: is it a “vapid” deduction, or is it a “semi-developing phenomenon”?

      1. I think you may be right about the non-non-sequiturs, so I’ll concede. The internal logic didn’t quite follow with me.

        Now I’m curious, though: What way do we have to measure that atheism or atheists receive the label of Islamophobe disproportionately? Measure blogs, gauge inflammatory media coverage that intrinsically depends on inflammatory sensationalism to sell itself? These no doubt exist; not saying they don’t. But the weighing of such things seems (may not be, perhaps) slightly petty.

        Additionally, I think what I was trying (failed, perhaps) to get at with the non-non-sequiturs is in a sense a subtle equivocation going on between “criticizing the ideas of the Qu’ran” and calling atheists “Islamophobes.” Further perhaps with the attribution of “dogma” or not. Perhaps we’re not really in disagreement on this, but it’s what you’re trying to speak to. The thought that someone is an “Islamophobe” just for criticizing aspects of the Qu’ran–or any other religion of their holy book, for that matter, is just so alien and off my radar. In Christianity, all we really have is heretics–no word for those who might hate or fear us in a pathological way. Humorously, I’m still not wholly convinced you’re not engaging in a sort of taciturn apologetic absolution for atheism here, a sort of atheist’s theodicy. Were the shoe on the other foot, of course, I am sure the calling of No True Scotsman (perhaps special pleading, to boot) would inevitably abound:

        1. Those dogmas aren’t expressive of true Christianity/Islam

        2. Dogma can be anything, except not true atheism

        …aren’t too far off, despite their differences. Perhaps important to criticize them, at least. As far as murderous violent dogma, I’m sorry but this keeps chirping in the back of my head:

        “Some beliefs are so dangerous that it may be ethical to kill people for believing them”

        ~Sam Harris, The End of Faith

        I’ll not whip up any sensationalism around that, though. In fairness, I haven’t read it in context and don’t wish to make that representative of all atheists or even publicly flog Harris for it. Does raise an eyebrow, though.

        In response to your last question, I think you’re forcing a false dichotomy (plus perhaps a category error) of that which is merely separate subjects:

        a) Deductions I might make of atheist-on-muslim violence along the lines of the former being Islamophobes. (Maybe it was just verbally unclear; I really don’t think they are, to be honest or have insufficient evidence that–no, Hicks isn’t enough–that is even the case.)

        b) Hoping that Muslim on atheist violence as well as atheist on Muslim violence doesn’t escalate anymore.

        They are separate. The one is peering (or lack of ability to) into motives. The latter merely in light of events that have happened. Was it anything beyond perhaps my ambiguity that gave you the idea of asking to make up my mind? Just curious.

        1. I disagree that it would be trite or petty to use media as a measure of how accusations are laid down. The media is ubiquitous and it’s accusations are severe (that’s why we have the saying ‘trial by media’).
          As for seeking absolution, I don’t see how atheism could be to blame. The victims were not espousing or acting in accordance with dangerous ideas. Sam Harris is not a prophet of atheism, so even if you had properly interpreted Harris’ quote and if the victims were dangerous and beyond peaceful intervention, and someone said they were doing what they thought Harris had implored (he didn’t) it would be on Harris, not atheism. (I’ll put the full quote at the end of this comment.) That is different to Islam, where the defining text/dogms of atheism includes such calls to violence.
          “The link between belief and behavior raises the stakes considerably. Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them. This may seem an extraordinary claim, but it merely enunciates an ordinary fact about the world in which we live. Certain beliefs place their adherents beyond the reach of every peaceful means of persuasion, while inspiring them to commit acts of extraordinary violence against others. There is, in fact, no talking to some people. If they cannot be captured, and they often cannot, otherwise tolerant people may be justified in killing them in self-defense”. (Read all the caveat for yourself. If it about when a belief leads to action and that action is dangerous and that person is beyond peaceful or reasonable discourse.)

  3. Atheist have a dogma.

    Atheist’s dogma is “A(nti)-theist”.

    Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities. [wiki]

    #Dogma is a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true [wiki]

    1. Would you are that from the definition of dogma you provided, there must be both an authority and a truth claim before something can be a “dogma”?
      What is the truth claim or authority from the definition of atheism you provided?

  4. Antitheism (sometimes anti-theism) is active opposition to theism. The term has had a range of applications; in secular contexts, it typically refers to direct opposition to organized religion or to the belief in any deity, while in a theistic context, it sometimes refers to opposition to a specific god or gods. [wiki]

    Anti theist – One opposed to belief in the existence of a god [oxford]

    In my view, an opinion of language scholar are very important. In Islamic school, the first lesson is “word”, “grammar”, “literature”, as basic to learn the term, and meaning. It being teach by language scholar. This is the highest language authorities in term of language.

    In this view, your language scholar are Oxford, Cambridge, Merriam, Encyclopedia (even wiki is public type). Unless, you disagree with it.

    This is the “authority” and “truth” of modern world.

    Note : The meaning of “Atheist” and “Anti-theist” are almost similar.

  5. Atheism
    1. the doctrine or belief that there is no God.
    2. disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings.

    Neologism (psychiatry)
    1. The creation of words that have meaning only to the person who uses them.

    1. Philosophy. the theory that only the self exists, or can be proved to exist.
    2. extreme preoccupation with and indulgence of one’s feelings, desires, etc.; egoistic self-absorption.

    Allalltian Solipsologism
    1. the belief that allallt can redefine the English language whenever he finds it convenient, because Others do not merit the reasonable use of language.

      1. Oh, I’ve missed you.

        But I shouldn’t sidetrack the discussion with personal issues. Originally, we’d been talking about how you made an entire giant post explaining that you weren’t bound by the English language. What do you call the new language you’ve developed, in which every other word is the same as English, except for “atheism,” which means something different in Allalltian?

        1. I’ll entertain this once to see how it goes.
          I accept definition (2) you presented for atheism is actually defining of atheism. I think definition (1) is a type of atheism, but not actually defining of atheism.
          This leaves us with a look at the meaning of the word “disbelief”.
          (a) inability or refusal to accept that something is true or real.
          (b) lack of faith.
          You’ll note that neither of the definitions of “disbelief” necessitate the acceptance of a negating claim or that the claim is deemed to be necessarily false.

          So, let’s do the gap fill:
          (2a) [Inability or refusal to accept that] the existence of a supreme being or beings [is real or true].
          (2b) [Lack of faith] in the existence of a supreme being or beings.


        2. Atheism v. Agnosticism

          One of the things that can make a discussion about word meanings fruitful is to ask why two different words might exist, which are not considered synonyms for the other, but rather, conveying their own distinct meaning. We have here “atheist” and “agnostic.” The definition you’re trying to cobble together for “atheist” results in atheist and agnostic meaning the same thing. So, why are there two words for the exact same belief, and why are those two words not, then, synonyms of one another?

          Moreover, you want to call yourself an “atheist,” but even though you knew that would be contentious with a lot of people (because the common usage of atheist is someone who doesn’t believe in a supreme being(s)), you chose that word, instead of agnostic, which would have been instantly understood by everyone else as meaning that you didn’t proactively believe, but accepted the possibility.

          Now, under challenge, you’ve carved up “atheist” so that it means “agnostic.” Why, though, did those two distinct words evolve, not as synonyms of each other, but conveying a major difference in belief system?

          Problems with your interpretation of atheism

          Even within the continuum of your verbal gymnastics, atheism does not mean agnosticism. If you have an inability of accepting as true the existence of a supreme being(s), then you don’t believe in them, ergo you’re an atheist, not an agnostic. If you have a lack of faith in the existence of a supreme being(s), then it means you lack faith, but would, perforce, believe in such supreme being(s) if you possessed evidence of such supreme being(s).

          You think that means that you can say, “I don’t disbelieve, because I would believe if there were evidence.” It does not, however, mean that. What it means is that, up until the moment evidence is presented, you don’t believe. Ergo right now you are an atheist, who does not believe (who disbelieves).

          Your acceptance of the fact that you might later believe if evidence were presented does not make you an agnostic. It makes you an atheist who hasn’t received evidence.

          Here follows an example.

          Scene 1

          Allallt: I don’t believe in blue cars. I have never seen one, and your fantasy that there are blue-painted automobiles is insane.

          Sally: Then you’re an a-bluecar-ist.

          Allallt: No, I’d believe in them if I saw one.

          Sally: Do you believe in them right now?

          Allallt: No. But I would if I saw one. I’m merely a free-thinking man who accepts that blue cars might exist.

          Sally: Then you do think there might be blue cars! There might be one driving over that hill right now!

          Allallt: No, there’s not. I don’t believe in blue cars.

          Sally: I believe I will someday see a blue car. Do you believe one will drive by soon?

          Allallt: Dammit, I told you, no! There are no blue cars! You are taking it on faith that there are blue cars, even though you’ve never seen one, except in your delusions. I will only believe in blue cars when I have evidence of it. For now, there are no blue cars.

          Scene 2

          (A blue car drives over the hill.)

          Sally, squealing: The blue car! It finally came, as I always knew it would! (Wipes away relieved sweat)

          Allallt: Now I believe in blue cars.


          During Scene 1, Allallt was an a-bluecar-ist. He did not believe in blue cars. During Scene 2, Allallt was a bluecar-ist. He believed in blue cars.

          Just call yourself an “agnostic” if you really accept that there might be a supernatural entity or entities. That’s the word to use. I know that it lacks the assertive, in-your-face flair of fashionable young Anglo atheists, but it’s accurate as well as honest.

        3. In another post that you have commented on (so I assume you have read) I explicitly say “In their softer forms, atheism and agnosticism are the same thing”. Both the words refer to a spectrum.
          Atheism refers to the spectrum of belief, with “doubt” at the softer side and “confidence in the negation” on the harder side i.e. atheism spans from “I do not believe in God” all the way to “I believe there is no God”. I applaud you on your consistent inability to represent me on the part of this spectrum I actually present or have explained to you that I am on.
          Agnosticism is a spectrum of knowledge. Again, at the softer side there is “doubt”. At the harder side there is not confidence in the negation, but the claim “it cannot be known”. I am a soft atheist and a hard agnostic.
          I call myself an atheist more than I call myself an agnostic because it is the word that people can relate to better.
          My about page says “My perspective is not ‘atheism’, rather atheism and agnosticism are symptoms of my perspective: critical and scientific thinking”; I am not adverse to describing myself as an agnostic. However, when I talk about my reasons for doubting other people label me as an atheist and I have found that introducing myself as an agnostic in these conversations actually obfuscates my position.

          Now, in Scenario one you made me a hard abluecar-ist to further your point. However, that is incongruous with the definitions you provided regarding atheism. Definition (2) that you provided is broad enough to include that whole spectrum, but you are then holding the word to the narrower (and hard) definition.
          You persist in this and you condescend to me as if it is only me talking about the softer form of atheism. You single me out with your bullshit concoction of a term “Allalltian Solipsologism” as if I stand alone in this understanding of atheism. Where, in fact, the accusation you made against me is a great description of what you are doing. And when you do it, you are ignoring one of the definitions you provided.

        4. Any concept, including the concept “a set of all possible concepts,” can be likened to a spectrum. We use language to allow ourselves to communicate ideas, and to distinguish them from one another. In this case, atheism and agnosticism, used properly, allow us to distinguish between those who disbelieve, and those who merely do not believe, in (a) supernatural entity/entities.

          I think that the word “rakish” sounds pretty cool. It has a nice, hard fricative (the “k” sound), and when I hear it, I always think, “Wow, that is such a cool word.” Sometimes, I want to describe my car as “a rakish car.” No matter how cool this sounds, though, that is an improper use of the word. It might be appropriate in the case of metaphor or literature, but it would be disingenuous of me to use it in other settings. For example, if my car had been stolen, and a police officer were questioning me about its appearance, and I said, “Well, it’s a rakish car,” the term is completely inapplicable, confusing, and unhelpful to that situation. No matter how cool I think it sounds.

          You really, really like calling yourself an “atheist,” because it feels edgy, scientific, and judgmental–and yet, you want to mangle the common usage and the formal English definition of “atheist” so that it means the same thing as “agnostic,” because in addition to being edgy and cool, you also want to appear as reasonable and open-minded as an agnostic.

          Fine, then. When someone wants to make-believe a new language, that’s all well and good. Go ahead and use lala-language! Describe your car as “rakish,” rather than as “red,” or “a red Jaguar convertible.” You’re an agnostic who self-identifies as atheist, kind of like a white person who self-identifies as a black person. Bully for you!

          In return, I want you to call me “Allallt’s intellectual superior.” My own definition of the phrase “intellectual superior” defines HighArka as intellectually superior to Allallt. Therefore, since I’m willing to call you an “atheist,” I’ll ask you to do me the same courtesy and address me as, “My intellectual superior.”

        5. I am happy to call you ‘Allallt’s intellectual superior’ if you those words in an attempt to communicate a meaning that I might otherwise express as “intellectually dense and pigheaded” or “obfuscating and obnoxious as to the point of not making sense any more”.
          I used your definition of atheism (definition 2) and the definitions of disbelieve (an operative word in definition 2 of atheism, as presented by you) to give two definitions of atheism: 2a and 2b. (You can scroll back up the comments to read them.) Those two definitions of atheism accurately describe me.
          Agnosticism also accurately describes me.

        6. Thank you! Please do address me as such from now on. =]

          Now, as an atheist-agnostic, please assist me in something else: I feel that your language should have a new term. In Allalltian English, “atheist” and “agnostic” mean the same thing–someone who is undecided about the existence of a god or gods (or supernatural entities, etc.). What, then, is the word for someone who doesn’t believe in a god or gods? Drawing upon the Indo-European, then Latin roots of your variety of English, it seems that a literal way to craft such a word would be to take “theist,” one who believes in a god or gods, and add the negative prefix “a” to it–but that would only create “atheist,” which you already use to self-identify yourself as someone who is undecided.

          In standard English, only “agnostic” means someone who is unsure either way, and so this problem is solved. “Theist” describes someone who believes, “atheist” describes someone who does not believe, and “agnostic” describes someone who is uncertain.

          Your English lacks that specificity! I think it would be helpful if you would tell me how you define someone different than yourself–someone who expressly believes that a god/gods does/do not exist. Do you have a preferred term to use to distinguish your own belief system from a person like that?

        7. Clearly, in your superior intellect, you are incapable of being consistent. You’ve just swapped the definition of atheism from what we had previously discussed to simply being undecided.
          Here’s the task twist: I am actually speaking English. Again, with your superior intellect, you haven’t noticed that.

        8. Why are “atheist” and “agnostic” not listed as synonyms of each other, if they mean the same thing? Perhaps you should call Oxford and alert them to their error.

          Are you aware of any word that means what the rest of the world thinks “atheist” means? Or does it just so happen that there is no such word for such a concept in the English language?

        9. Your superior intellect is blinding you to the fact atheism does include what you are saying. It is just that what you are saying is not all of atheism. Your attempt at the Socratic seminar is failing because you are refusing to meet me on my terms. By repeatedly confusing your terms to meet your agenda, instead of trying to have a discussion about the issue, you are revealing your own errors or uncertainty (I can’t tell which).

        10. “[A]theism does include what you are saying.”

          That’s intriguing…so, atheism means both someone who believes there is no god(s), and also someone who believes that there might be god(s)?

          Doesn’t that make the word self-contradictory? Because in that case, a Type 1 Atheist wouldn’t be a Type 2 Atheist, because a Type 1 Atheist believes there are no god(s), while a Type 2 Atheist is undecided on the matter.

          So, Type 2 Atheist holds the same meaning as “agnostic,” while Type 1 Atheist means something quite distinct from “agnostic.”

          You seem to be saying you’re a Type 2 Atheist, but you also seem to be saying that you share your group identity with Type 1 Atheists, and that it is permissible to call both Types of Atheist “atheist.” Is that correct?

        11. Atheism is the lack of a belief in a God. That includes believing there is not a God and simply not accepting the claim. Again, your superior intelligence is making you inconsistent.

        12. I was looking for an answer to these two questions. Quoting myself in each case:

          1) That’s intriguing…so, atheism means both someone who believes there is no god(s), and also someone who believes that there might be god(s)?

          2) You seem to be saying you’re a Type 2 Atheist, but you also seem to be saying that you share your group identity with Type 1 Atheists, and that it is permissible to call both Types of Atheist “atheist.” Is that correct?

        13. The punctuation at the end of each interrogative sentence can clue you in, even if you otherwise misunderstand the context. In this case, the so-called question mark (?) can help you identify an interrogative.

          Here, though, I’ll rephrase the first one for you, and we’ll see if that helps:

          1) Does the word “atheism” mean both someone who believes there is no god(s), and also someone who believes that there might be god(s)?

        14. Yes. But incidentally.
          Atheism means a lack of belief in Gods. You know that. Remember definition 2b: “[Lack of faith] in the existence of a supreme being or beings.”? That is the definition you offered. You have since sneaked in the idea of “undecided about the existence of a god”. I believe you’ve done that with the sole goal to obfuscate, because using the definition you provided I was making clear points.
          You can lack such a belief by believing the negation–“there are no Gods”; or by not being convinced despite recognising the negation hasn’t been demonstrated either.
          You might enjoy viewing here ( where agnostic is listed as a synonym of atheism.

          The thing is Higharka, I’m not saying anything complex. I think the loops you’re walking me round here are intentionally frustrating and that you have intention to better understand by position.
          So, why don’t you do this whole conversation a favour and give what you think the definitions of atheism and agnosticism are?

        15. What you’re missing is that “lack of faith” does not mean “lack of belief,” ergo your attempt to use that variation of “disbelief” to describe your relationship with, say, the Abramic God, is incorrect.

          Here’s why: I believe in apples, but I don’t have faith in them. I believe in them because I’m holding one right now. I’ve read about them from trustworthy sources. I’ve heard testimony from other people who have experienced apples firsthand. So although I believe in apples, I do not have faith in them.

          Does that mean that I disbelieve in apples? No–the variation on the term “disbelief” that you offered applies only in a religious context, in which lack of faith is tantamount to lack of belief. It would be ridiculous, in English, to say that people disbelieve in anything in which they lack faith.

          For example, do you disbelieve in cars? Do you disbelieve in airplanes? Do you disbelieve that the Earth is round?

          No–you probably believe all of those things. But you believe them not out of faith, but because you have proof of them. You can test whether or not those things exist.

          Ergo your use of the religiously-derived variant on disbelief, namely “lack of faith,” is inappropriately used in these circumstances. Religious people may call non-believers “disbelievers” for their lack of faith, but that version of the definition is only appropriate inside a religious context. If you lack faith, but you’re open to the possibility that a god(s) may exist, then you’re an agnostic.

          It may please you to know that your point of view will prevail as to the larger world beyond our discussion. Language is always evolving, and as scientism grows more pronounced, people of your belief system will want to prove that they are not, and cannot possibly be, “close minded.” Therefore they will rewrite the dictionary in the way that you prefer, making a(nti)theist mean the same thing as agnostic, and eventually, by majority consensus, your preferred viewpoint will be correct. Per the rules of Newspeak, you will muddle the definition of a term until it means something more pleasing to your people.

          What all of you will be losing in the process of doing that will be the complexity of language. Newspeak seeks to eliminate variegations in language to make certain concepts impossible to discuss. Even when your kind have morphed “atheist” and “agnostic” into utter synonyms, it will still be possible for further generations to conceive of the concept of a different kind of person: a person who expressly believes that there is no god(s), rather than an “atheist” (agnostic), who, by then, will simply mean “a rational, open-minded individual who is more intelligent than religious hooligans of the past.)

          With the understanding that your alterations on language will eventually win out, it doesn’t matter which one of us wins this argument. You will believe that your new version of the word was the way it always was, and eventually, so many people will die out that only a few boring language professors will know that “atheist” used to mean something much different. I know I won’t convince you, during the transitionary phase, that mutilating language is a dangerous act.

          Instead, let us move forward in time, and pretend that we’re having this discussion in a world where your desires are fully realized, and the distinction between atheist and agnostic has been lost down the Memory Hole. Pretend that we’re two citizens of the future, raised in a world where there never was a linguistic distinction between those two terms.

          And then, pretend that I tell you, “Let’s make up a new word to assist us in our discussion. What should we call someone who believes there definitely are not any god(s)?”

          What do you think would be a good word for such a person? Knowing such a term could help us distinguish your belief system–a state of uncertainty about whether or not there is a god(s)–from someone who is absolutely certain that there isn’t a god(s)?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s