Glossary

For the sake of brevity and clarity, I am composing a list of words that people frequently use on my blog (including myself) and giving you the meanings I intend or infer from their use.

[UNDER CONSTRUCTION. Feedback welcomed.]

Agnostic

(1) a person who identifies as not knowing whether a god exists,

(2) a person who identifies as believing it is impossible to know whether a god exists

NB conversations can often be sidetracked by trying to identify whether I am agnostic or atheist. I don’t believe a God exists. That description makes no claims about knowledge, so which am I? I also don’t claim to know whether a God exists. Now, which am I? If you answered that both terms apply, you are correct. I am an agnostic atheist.

Anti-theism

(1) the stance that belief in a God is harmful, either to societies or to individuals.

NB In principle, one could be an anti-theist regardless of their stance on the question of theism. One could be convinced of a God, but still think it’s a belief that causes more harm than good.
In practice, in terms of population, it is a lot more likely to be subset of atheists. But there is no inherent reason this has to be the case. One could argue that the Devil was an anti-theist, despite clearly believing in a God but rejecting its authority.

Atheist

(1) a person who identifies as not believing in any god.

NB This includes, but is not limited to people who actively reject gods. The word “atheist” includes people who have not accepted the claim “God exists” nor the claim “God does not exist”.

Belief

(1) A claim held to be defensible or accurate with a high level of confidence, based on evidence and appropriate philosophical and reasoning methods.

Christian

(1) A person who believes in the truth and redemptive power of the murder and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

NB The ‘has had a God-inspired epiphany’ definition is practically unfalsifiable and by testimony could define members of any faith.

Empiricism

(1) Coming to know things by observation, study and analysis.

Faith

(1) pretending to know things you don’t know.

NB Faith is not the same as hope. If I hope to be able to fly I am not claiming to have faith that I will be able to fly. This is also not a subset of belief, as belief is explicitly defensible in terms of evidence, reason and philosophy, whereas faith is not defensible in these terms. 

Hope

(1) An utterance of an aspirational state of things. It is not a claim of faith or of belief, but of a desire for things to be different from how they are perceived to be.

NB Not synonymous with faith. 

Humanism

(1) the belief that human ingenuity and discussion alone can develop ethical, technological and societal progress

Ignostic

(1) a person who identifies as feeling no one has given a meaningful definition of a god.

Islam (not to be confused with Muslims)

(1) A collection of beliefs and doctrines, as detailed in the Hadith and Quran.

Islamist (not to be confused with Muslim)

(1) A person who wishes to supersede other cultures with Islam, by force if necessary; to protect Islam from criticism globally and persecute those who offend Islam

Know

(1) something you can assert with evidence-based reasoning and corresponding confidence based on evidence.

NB Notice how this definition of “know” affects the definition of “faith”. Faith is pretending to have evidence-based reasoning leading to corresponding confidence in a claim, when in fact you do not have that.

Methodological naturalism

(1) The recognition that our methods for investigating reality are limited to natural methods.

(2) The recognition that all phenomena observed from natural methods can be explained in a closed-loop, called nature. Nothing natural has needed the explanation of something unnatural. (Although such an explanation is not ruled out by methodological naturalism.)

(3) Because all of nature can be explained as part of a self-contained loop, it is also the provisional acceptance that natural fully accounts for reality.

Muslim (not to be confused with Islam or Islamist)

(1) A person who identifies are believing Mohammed is God’s messenger

Ontological naturalism

(1) The presupposition that nature is all that exists (the difference between this and methodological naturalism is important; take a moment to fully consider it).

Rationalism

(1) Coming to know things my reason, logic and philosophy.

Religious nihilism

(1) The position that no things have any value, except with authoritative top-down enforcement from a God.

Science

(1) The laws and theories supported by evidence and scientific institutions. Synonym: scientific body of knowledge

(2) The method of coming to know things through observation, experiments and rigorous criticism as to continually remove doubt from a claim. Synonym: scientific method

NB There are certain things that we know, like the temperature of the surface of a star, even though we have never experienced them; some scientific claims are not empirical. These claims are based on more than direct observation. These claims are also based on reasoned assumptions. For example, to tell the temperature of a star assumptions must be made about the light spectra and nuclear fusion. Both of these assumptions can be validated mathematically or in smaller-scale experiments.

Theory

(1) (in science) the highest level of confidence evidence-based reasons can elevate an idea to. A scientific theory is the very best idea we have about a part of the universe and can be said to be something we “know” (see above).

(2) (in common use) a idea or conjecture one supposes to be true, as yet without sufficient evidence. (Synonym: hypothesis)

NB Always make sure you know which one you mean and which the other person means.

Universe

(1) A pocket of intelligibility and coherence that began, according to best estimates, 13.8 billion years ago.

NB This definition is my preferred definition, as I have no understanding of cosmology that allows me to make a more refined definition, but also this allows for ‘Big Bang’ cosmologies, ‘Hyper-inflation’ and ‘Big Crunch’ repeating models.

(2) A pocket of space-time that began, according to best estimates, 13.8 billion years ago.

NB This definition excludes Hyper-inflation models of cosmogony, as it assumes space-time itself began, unlike definition (1), which simply states intelligibility began. Both definition 1 and 2 permit a multiverse.

(3) All that exists.

NB The implication of this is that a pocket of space-time and a universe are not the same thing, as any potential multiverse (many pockets of space-time) would be subsumed under the ensemble of “universe”, as distinct from our universe.

Worship

(1) the surrender of your moral autonomy to a being considered greater than oneself.

 

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