What exactly is an atheist?

Faithoverbelief

Active member
I wonder, what exactly is an atheist? Technically the word means without theism. Well I have heard many definitions of atheism but I wonder what you think?
Is deism which is not theism atheism?
 

Komodo

Active member
I wonder, what exactly is an atheist? Technically the word means without theism. Well I have heard many definitions of atheism but I wonder what you think?
Is deism which is not theism atheism?
It would seem so, if you go with the following logic:

1. Etymology tells us that "a-theism" is "without theism," or the set of beliefs which do not belong to the "theist" set;
2. "Theism" is a belief in a personal god who intervenes in the universe;
3. "Deism" is a belief in an impersonal god who does not intervene in the universe;
4. Therefore, deism does not belong to theism;
5. Therefore (according to premise #1), deism is a form of atheism.

I think the big problem is with premise #1. "A-theism" gives you "without theism," but "a-the[os]-ism" gives you something more like "without God belief," which is much closer to common usage. By that definition, deism isn't atheism, because it does have God belief.

Etymologies are generally too loose and elliptical to carry the weight of definitions anyway. "Optimism" breaks down into "best-ism." But nobody is going to call me an "optimist" because I read Shakespeare and Shakespeare is the best poet. In common usage, "optimism" is "the belief or attitude [that expects] the best." Better to stick with common usage: particularly with how people calling themselves "atheists" define it.
 
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Mr Laurier

Well-known member
I wonder, what exactly is an atheist? Technically the word means without theism. Well I have heard many definitions of atheism but I wonder what you think?
Is deism which is not theism atheism?
An atheist is a person who has arrived at the conclusion that there is no evidence for any gods.
 

jonathan_hili

Well-known member
I wonder, what exactly is an atheist? Technically the word means without theism. Well I have heard many definitions of atheism but I wonder what you think?
Is deism which is not theism atheism?
I think it depends on the kind of atheist you are speaking with. Some will contend that atheism is essentially about a lack of belief in God (due to lack of evidence or whatever reason); whereas others will argue it is based on the proposition that no God exists (due to lack of evidence or whatever reason). Personally, I find the first definition, while it may be honest, to be rather dull and not worth discussing/debating.
 

Mr Laurier

Well-known member
When I first came to CARM, I was not an atheist. Although I was no longer a christian, having escaped that complex of religions over a decade previously, I still clung to the gods. However, over the years I examined my own faith more closely, and found it just as groundless as my previous christianity.
I eventually accepted atheism.
 

5wize

Well-known member
It would seem so, if you go with the following logic:

1. Etymology tells us that "a-theism" is "without theism," or the set of beliefs which do not belong to the "theist" set;
2. "Theism" is a belief in a personal god who intervenes in the universe;
3. "Deism" is a belief in an impersonal god who does not intervene in the universe;
4. Therefore, deism does not belong to theism;
5. Therefore (according to premise #1), deism is a form of atheism.

I think the big problem is with premise #1. "A-theism" gives you "without theism," but "a-the[os]-ism" gives you something more like "without God belief," which is much closer to common usage. By that definition, deism isn't atheism, because it does have God belief.

Etymologies are generally too loose and elliptical to carry the weight of definitions anyway. "Optimism" breaks down into "best-ism." But nobody is going to call me an "optimist" because I read Shakespeare and Shakespeare is the best poet. In common usage, "optimism" is "the belief or attitude [that expects] the best." Better to stick with common usage: particularly with how people calling themselves "atheists" define it.
I think the problem is with premise #2. A personal God is a subset belief of any God.

I think one of the premises that need to be explored is a "Sentient Being". Deism still includes sentience and design. This is surely not atheism.
 

5wize

Well-known member
I wonder, what exactly is an atheist? Technically the word means without theism. Well I have heard many definitions of atheism but I wonder what you think?
Is deism which is not theism atheism?
I think deism is theism as it proposes a sentient being with a design at creation. Pantheism is a "being-less" allusion to deism as in it God is merely dispersed to all parts of the whole, but is still theism as the name suggests. Once you are pantheist though, Occam would persuade you to just drop the anthropomorphism.
 
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Whateverman

Well-known member
I wonder, what exactly is an atheist? Technically the word means without theism. Well I have heard many definitions of atheism but I wonder what you think?
Is deism which is not theism atheism?
Deism is theism; if you believe that any kind of deity exists, you're a theist. The distinction is that deists are generally not religious. I don't even know how a deist COULD BE religious...

There are all kinds of definitions of atheism, but I've settled on the one which appeals to Greek etymology. Theism is about belief, and gnosticism is about knowledge. It's possible for someone to believe a god exists without knowing it for a fact, so that person would be an agnostic theist; someone who doesn't believe in gods because he claims to know that no gods exist would be a gnostic atheist.

In practice, most atheists are agnostic atheists. Most of us don't believe gods exist, but we're not 100% certain of this. This is the category I fall into, and by my last count, it's the category most of us here fall into as well.
 

Authentic Nouveau

Well-known member
When I first came to CARM, I was not an atheist. Although I was no longer a christian, having escaped that complex of religions over a decade previously, I still clung to the gods. However, over the years I examined my own faith more closely, and found it just as groundless as my previous christianity.
I eventually accepted atheism.
Faith in materialism? Darwinistism?
 

Whateverman

Well-known member
Faith in materialism? Darwinistism?
Found a job yet?

It's a new year. 2021! It's time for a clean slate. Get up off that couch, and out of your Mom's basement, and go find a job so you can finally pay her some rent. She'd want you to do this, and you know you owe it to her. It'd be the right thing to do...

So how about you make it your New Year's Resolution to get a job?
 

Komodo

Active member
Deism is theism; if you believe that any kind of deity exists, you're a theist. The distinction is that deists are generally not religious. I don't even know how a deist COULD BE religious...

There are all kinds of definitions of atheism, but I've settled on the one which appeals to Greek etymology. Theism is about belief, and gnosticism is about knowledge. It's possible for someone to believe a god exists without knowing it for a fact, so that person would be an agnostic theist; someone who doesn't believe in gods because he claims to know that no gods exist would be a gnostic atheist.

In practice, most atheists are agnostic atheists. Most of us don't believe gods exist, but we're not 100% certain of this. This is the category I fall into, and by my last count, it's the category most of us here fall into as well.
Sometimes, like in discussions of 18th & 19th-century philosophy, historians define "theism" not as the belief in God, period, but as the belief in an active, purposeful, interventional god (as opposed to the god of deism, which is none of those things). That would mean that both theism and deism are sub-sets of "belief in a god of any kind," and then we would want to supply some handy name for that, since 'theism' was taken ('Goddism'?), but I don't know if anybody ever did supply one. Look at it this way, we have three sets:
A) All those who believe in god
B) All those, within A, who believe that God is purposeful and intervenes in the universe
C) All those, within A, who do not believe that God is purposeful and intervenes in the universe.

Everybody calls C "deism." But if "theism" is the word for A, what's the word for B? And if theism is the word for B, what's the word for A?

It's all semantics, obviously. The historians use the terms which are more convenient for them, and we use those which are more convenient for us, and as long as we make clear how we're using them, it's all good.
 
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TeabagSalad

Active member
Found a job yet?

It's a new year. 2021! It's time for a clean slate. Get up off that couch, and out of your Mom's basement, and go find a job so you can finally pay her some rent. She'd want you to do this, and you know you owe it to her. It'd be the right thing to do...

So how about you make it your New Year's Resolution to get a job?
There are some people who cannot work because they are physically or mentally disabled. These are the sorts of people that should benefit from a welfare state. Even if they can't work, perhaps they can contribute to society in a different way.
 

Temujin

Well-known member
There are some people who cannot work because they are physically or mentally disabled. These are the sorts of people that should benefit from a welfare state. Even if they can't work, perhaps they can contribute to society in a different way.
True, but providing wry amusement on an obscure Internet site, is not a hugely constructive contribution to society. And yes, I am conscious of the irony in that statement.
 

Electric Skeptic

Well-known member
I wonder, what exactly is an atheist? Technically the word means without theism. Well I have heard many definitions of atheism but I wonder what you think?
Is deism which is not theism atheism?
An atheist is someone who is not a theist. If the answer to the question "Do you believe a god exists?" is not "yes", then the person asked is an atheist.
 

Furion

Active member
I wonder, what exactly is an atheist? Technically the word means without theism. Well I have heard many definitions of atheism but I wonder what you think?
Is deism which is not theism atheism?
Well let's see. I will give you a walking definition, based upon observation.

Atheists do not acknowledge their Creator.

Atheists say the universe is amoral, while they themselves think they are moral, good people.

Atheists have faith in their various hypothesis about life, but have a difficult time understanding or admitting they demonstrate faith.

The vast majority, maybe not all, claim God immoral.

I believe, from these observations that most are hard atheists, they will tell you there are "no gods"

These are just some of the broadly universal beliefs atheists here share. And I've observed none different in other places.
 

Ficciones

Active member
Atheists do not acknowledge their Creator.
Sure I do. My creator is nature. It may not know it's my creator any more than a tree knows it's creating leaves, but it's my origin nonetheless.
Atheists say the universe is amoral, while they themselves think they are moral, good people.
Yes. Nature is amoral, and only people, as agents, can be moral or immoral. Is a planet moral or immoral? Of course not.
Atheists have faith in their various hypothesis about life, but have a difficult time understanding or admitting they demonstrate faith.
Here we see the classic Christian tactic of conflating confidence with faith. I have confidence that my oven will roast a chicken. That's not religious faith; cooking is not a religion!
The vast majority, maybe not all, claim God immoral.
That's neither here nor there, because as I've argued elsewhere, God is metaphysically impossible. I've yet to see my argument rebutted.
 
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